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Taking medication during pregnancy brings more concerns than it does when you don’t have a little person on board, but these drugs you definitely, definitely do not want to take while you’re pregnant. All are currently classified in the FDA’s Pregnancy Category X, which means that the benefits never outweigh the risks, which includes birth defects or fetal death.
Thalidomide might be the most well-known example of a medication that causes severe birth defects, as in the late 1950s, it was heavily marketed as an effective morning sickness treatment. Unfortunately, more than 10,000 babies in 46 countries were born with severe birth defects as a result, which included undeveloped limbs, eye deformations, and heart issues, among many more. Despite its dark history, the drug is still available today and is used for leprosy, some types of cancers and a few other ailments.
Another medication that falls into Category X is one that is more commonly used — Accutane is prescribed for severe, cystic acne. In the U.S., women of childbearing age and ability must consent to using two forms of birth control while using the medication, and dispensing it is very tightly controlled. Even if its use is stopped shortly before conception, birth defects can still occur.
Leflunomide is a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) that is prescribed for moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis. It works by suppressing the immune system, which helps keep the body from attacking itself for no good reason. Pregnancy must be excluded before treatment with leflunomide begins, and women who wish to become pregnant must not only cease treatment, but they must undergo a drug elimination procedure.
Methotrexate is another DMARD which is also used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, as well as some types of cancers as a chemotherapy agent. It is also used for the induction of medical abortions and as a treatment for ectopic pregnancies. Often, women who are receiving methotrexate therapy are routinely tested for pregnancy, and if conception occurs, termination is often advised.
Warfarin helps prevent blood clots, and although it was established in 1948 as a pesticide against rats and mice, it was soon discovered to have a positive effect on the formation of blood clots. If warfarin is used during the first trimester, several birth defects can occur that are collectively known as fetal warfarin syndrome.