Sen. Charles Schumer of New York is calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to change the safety labels on prescription medication to clearly warn women of the dangers the drugs can cause to their unborn babies.
Sen. Schumer’s driving motivation was to reduce the number of babies born addicted to painkillers and other opiates, which has nearly tripled in the past 10 years. A study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that approximately 3.4 of every 1,000 babies born in 2009 was addicted to a painkiller.
If the senator had his way, not just painkillers would include stronger warnings on their labels, but also other prescription drugs that pose risks to developing fetuses, such as antidepressants.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are among the most prescribed medications in the country and many women are under the impression that the drugs are safe to take during pregnancy because most are listed as Category C Pregnancy drugs. However, the drugs have been linked to serious birth defects including malformations, heart defects, lung defects, and defects of the brain and spinal cord. Conditions include newborn persistent pulmonary hypertension, spina bifida and anencephaly.
Other studies show a potential link between SSRI exposure in utero and developmental delays, behavioral problems, learning difficulties, and even autism. Another study showed that using SSRIs during pregnancy increased the likelihood of the mother developing high blood pressure, which can be life threatening for both the mother and her unborn child.