Moms-to-be messing with too many meds?

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In her Personal Health column in today s NY Times Science section, Jane Brody sheds light on the pregnancy hazards linked to many medicinal substances, and new findings which show that during the last 30 years, the use of prescription drugs in the first trimester of pregnancy has grown by more than 60 percent.

About 90 percent of pregnant women take at least one medication, and 70 percent take at least one prescription drug, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she writes.

Now a new concern has surfaced, Brody continues, Bypassing their doctors, more and more women are using the Internet to determine whether the medication they are taking or are about to take is safe for an unborn baby. A study, published online last month in Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, of so-called safe lists for medications in pregnancy found at 25 Web sites revealed glaring inconsistencies and sometimes false reassurances or alarms based on inadequate evidence .

The report Brody cites was prepared by Cheryl S. Broussard of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with co-authors from Emory, Georgia State University, the University of British Columbia and the Food and Drug Administration.

Among medications approved for use in the U.S.A. from 2000 to 2010, over 79% had no published human data on which to assess teratogenic risk (potential to cause birth defects), and 98% had insufficient published data to characterize such risk, the authors wrote. Furthermore, the information found online was sometimes contradictory. Twenty-two of the products listed as safe by one or more sites were stated not to be safe by one or more of the other sites, the study found.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross noted that it seems the pendulum has swung too far to the medicate me side: After the thalidomide tragedy of the early 1960s, pregnant women and their doctors recoiled from any exposure to any substance that might upset the delicate timetable of fetal development. Mothers-to-be simply refused to take anything that could possibly be avoided. Now Brody s column and her references indicate that women and their caregivers may be getting a bit too cavalier in ingesting drugs and medicinals without sufficient thought to the risk-benefit for them and their developing babies.