Women have few reliable and easy-to-understand resources available to tell them what medications may be harmful to their unborn child if the drugs are used during pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found.
Women usually search the internet for information about pregnancy in general. However, when CDC researchers examined 25 pregnancy-related websites they found contradictory information about which drugs pose risks to pregnant women or their fetuses. One site listed 22 products as safe that were considered risky on another site. Plus, there was no information to back up safety claims made for 40 percent of drugs listed on the sites.
Some medications if taken during pregnancy can cause birth defects, stillbirth, or even health problems for the mother. Drug companies do not test their medications on pregnant women, so data on risk with many medications is still largely unknown.
This is an even bigger problem than before since the CDC says medication use during the first trimester of pregnancy has increased 60 percent in the past 30 years. The first three months of pregnancy are critical, as that is when fetal organs are forming and are more vulnerable to defects.
One of the most prescribed drugs in the United States are antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. These include brand names such as Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexparo and Prozac.
The drugs are considered relatively safe for pregnant women though recent studies have linked SSRI use to heart defects and a serious lung defect known as persistent pulmonary hypertension. Some babies exposed to SSRIs in utero go through withdrawal symptoms in their first days of life with symptoms ranging from nervous shaking to seizures.