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FDA Finally Studying Medications and Pregnancy

candy-pillsIf you had a discussion with your doc about taking medicine during pregnancy, we’re willing to be it went something like this:

You: “Doc, is X safe for my baby if I take it now?

Doctor: “We don’t know, so you need to just suffer a little longer. What’s your due date again?”

An end to all that putting up with the symptoms of pregnancy and putting on hold your own health care may be in sight. The FDA has launched a study to look at the effects of prescription medications used during pregnancy.

Dubbed the Medication Exposure in Pregnancy Risk Evaluation Program (MEPREP) it’s a partnership between the FDA and researchers at the HMO Research Network Center for Education and Research in Therapeutics (CERT), Kaiser Permanente’s multiple research centers and Vanderbilt University.

According to the FDA, two-thirds of pregnant women take at least one prescription medicine during their pregnancies. And if yours was anything like mine, it required you to “tell” your doctor you wanted to go on that medicine rather than the other way around – you know, the traditional means of a doctor prescribing medicine. Afraid of the potential for lawsuits, many docs will only pull out the prescription pad after reading off a litany of possible, maybe, might happens side effects to baby.

But as the FDA points out in its announcement of the MEPREP, there just aren’t that many clinical trials completed to ascertain if medicines will have those side effects.

And so we women suffer. I went seven months off of my depression medication because I feared for my fetus – until the sheer incapacitation and the fear of post-partum depression pushed me back on just at the end of my pregnancy. And then I had to just cross my fingers. Likewise I took anti-nausea drugs usually reserved for chemotherapy patients only because the fear that my inability to hold down any food would be worse for my baby than the effects of the drugs. But I did it on a wing and a prayer.

It stands to reason there are few clinical trials in this field. What woman in her right mind would volunteer her body to science when she’s carrying a baby? We’ll do a lot for science when it’s our own bodies on the line; but when it’s ours and our unborn child’s, we’re much more cautious.

Still, it needs to be done – for the sake of all those pregnant women and their babies to come. And the FDA is going to make use of old data – looking at women who already gave birth and who already took those medications to start them off.

Image: D Sharon Pruitt, flickr

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