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Vital Reading: Drug Labels for Pregnant Women

March 18, 2013
Plain English Version

The print is very small but the information is very important.

The federal government says the number of women using medication in the first trimester jumped 60 percent in the last 30 years. Women are getting pregnant at older ages. They have more chronic conditions than younger women.

Women are advised to look carefully at over-the-counter medicines when they are pregnant. For example, the fine print on Advil says not to take it in the third trimester. It does not say anything about risk earlier in the pregnancy, although. Doctors have found there is little risk during this period.

Decongestants? Doctors advise using a nasal spray early in pregnancy.

Antidepressants? Talk to your doctor before taking any. Some brands are safer during pregnancy than others. Stopping some medications you were taking before pregnancy may also be dangerous.

Some drugs are proven safe, such as Zofran for morning sickness. Pregnant women need flu shots.

How about going on the Internet for information? Researchers looked at 25 pregnancy sites and found no two lists of safe drugs were the same. They also could not find good information on 40 percent of the drugs listed.

Drug companies do not want to risk doing drug tests on pregnant women. And no one wants to risk increasing birth defects.

A doctor said, “The time to start thinking about this is when you are not pregnant.”

The government is starting a “Treating for Two” program to find better ways to inform women about what medications are safe to take.

In the future there will be more information on labels. For now, read the label carefully and talk to your health care provider.

The Arizona Republic

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