Counseling Sheet

Drugs in Pregnancy

Undoubtedly there was a time in history when the lifestyle of a pregnant woman was so natural and uncomplicated that all babies were born without physical defects. Now, however, more than ever before we are seeing a greater incidence of childhood deformities, childhood malignancies, and "inborn errors of metabolism." Our polluted environment and chemical permissiveness are surely a large factor.

Even the matter of taking vitamins during pregnancy can be injurious to the baby.

The unborn child may be made to require more vitamins by the mother's use of them during pregnancy. The circulation of the baby has a much greater affinity for vitamins than has the mother's circulation. The umbilical cord consistently contains higher blood levels of vitamins than does the maternal blood, even if the mother is low in vitamins. Mechanisms that favor the rapid passage of vitamins across the placenta to the baby seem to exist, even when the baby does not need the extra vitamins. While individual vitamin preparations cross the placenta at different rates, blood samples taken from babies immediately after birth show a higher level of vitamins than the mother's blood, the vitamins having been administered to the mother 30 minutes to 5 hours before delivery. It is also known that transfer of vitamins into the milk is very efficient and may also increase the quantity of vitamins taken in by the baby.

Smoking poisons the baby and the placenta so that the placenta malfunctions and the baby does not grow optimally. Even though a pregnancy is carried to full term, babies of smoking mothers usually have lower birth weights than do babies of nonsmoking mothers. A low birth weight infant is handicapped. In a study of 9,169 women, it was found that tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption significantly increased the rate of stillbirths and were important causes in the increased frequency of death caused by abruptio placentae, a premature separation of the placenta. The risk is multiplied by 6 for tobacco and by more than 30, if alcohol consumption is added to the use of tobacco. Serious birth defects are more than twice as frequent among women who smoke more than 10 cigarettes per day than in the total group of pregnant patients. There is a higher incidence of abnormal placentas among pregnant women smoking as little as five cigarettes per day.

Alcohol damages every cell it touches, and the developing baby is no exception.

The "fetal alcohol syndrome" is a disease suffered by newborn babies whose mothers used alcohol during their pregnancies. Even with gross methods of testing, such as weighing and measuring, if a mother takes as much as one ounce of absolute alcohol daily, there is an associated decrease in birth weight. This decrease averages 91 grams, if the ingestion occurred before pregnancy, 95 grams if it occurred in early pregnancy, and 160 grams if it occurred in late pregnancy. Long before measurements are determined by these methods, damage is done to such delicate structures as the brain, eyes, adrenals, kidneys, etc.

By this time the reader should recognize that anything taken during pregnancy other than abundant fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and the sparing use of any other nutrients, may result in abnormalities of the baby. Certainly, drugs fall in the category of those things that should be studiously avoided. Unfortunately, many individuals do not know that certain chemicals are drugs. These may include baking soda, caffeine-containing drinks, various spices, and many other chemicals. Most pregnant women do not understand that aspirin is a drug and that it should be avoided during pregnancy. Aspirin may kill the baby, or may cause the baby to develop abnormally and have birth defects. The blood clotting mechanism may be altered.

The average pregnant woman takes seven drugs during her pregnancy. Unfortunately, many of these drugs are prescribed by physicians. Some drugs are taken before the woman recognizes that she is pregnant. It is important that any woman in the childbearing age carefully avoid the use of drugs, if there is any possibility that she might be pregnant.

We are certain from animal experiments and population studies that some cancers have their origin before birth, or even before conception. At least 29 chemicals have been shown to induce tumors in the offspring of experimental animals. Age distribution curves for malignancies show sharp peaks before the age of 5 years.

Certain drugs used to combat the nausea and vomiting in pregnancy have been linked with birth defects. A group of three babies whose mothers took Debondex, a drug similar to Bendectin, widely used for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, showed deformity or total absence of a leg, and the abdominal contents extruded outside of the abdomen and just under the skin.

The list of drugs that are known to affect the unborn baby is long and growing, including vitamins, hormones, antibiotics, immunizations, anesthetics, and others. Even cosmetic constituents have been shown to cause abnormalities in chick embryos. These include certain perfumes used in creams, soap, shampoos, sprays, etc. We believe that the best policy is to use no drugs during the childbearing age, unless needed for a lifesaving emergency.

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Uchee Pines Lifestyle Center
30 Uchee Pines Road #75
Seale, Alabama 36875