Cold Medication and Decongestants Linked To Birth Defects

A recent study by researchers from Harvard University found that use of decongestants during the first trimester of pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects of the heart, digestive tract and ears.

First trimester use of phenylephrine was tied to an eight-fold increase in the risk of a heart defect called endocardial cushion defect, which is a condition in which the walls between the heart chambers are poorly formed. Phenylephrine is found in medications such as Sudafed, and it is the most common over the counter decongestant in the U.S. Phenylpropanolamine, which is found in decongestants such as Dextrim and Gentab, was linked to an eight-fold risk of defects of the ear and stomach. In fact, pyloric stenosis, which is a narrowing of the opening from the stomach to the lower intestine, was greater with the use of any intranasal decongestant. These findings support previous suspected associations between decongestants and birth defects.

For the first time, researchers found links between first trimester use of pseudoephedrine and limb defects. Use of imidazolines, which is found in nasal decongestant sprays and eye drops, was shown to double the risk of having a baby with an abnormal connection between the trachea and esophagus.

Decongestants are some of the most commonly used drugs, so understanding the consequences of taking them during pregnancy must be fully understood. The absolute risk for birth defects is small, but the physician and mother should always determine whether the beneficial effects of treatment outweigh the risks for the fetus. Since there is enough evidence showing a connection between decongestant use and birth defects, physicians should not recommend that pregnant women take decongestants; each woman’s need for the drugs should be evaluated on a case by case basis.

In response to the new research, Dr. Dolan, professor of Clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine said, “This study points out that women should adhere strictly to dosing guidelines, to talk to their doctors about what they’re taking, and to consider healthy alternatives.”

The developing fetus is very sensitive to medications. There are many medications–including decongestants–that may be tested and approved for use in adults, but have never been tested during pregnancy.

Birth Defects, Medications Taken During Pregnancy And Medical Malpractice

At Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers, our nationally recognized attorneys are dedicated to birth injury cases. If you took cold medications or decongestants during pregnancy and your child suffered a birth defect, our firm can  help. For decades, we have been helping families in Michigan and throughout the nation, and we have numerous multi-million dollar verdicts that attest to our success. We will fight to obtain the compensation you and your family deserve for lifelong care, treatment and therapy. We will evaluate your case to determine if your child suffered injuries due to the negligence of the physician or medical staff, and you never pay any money until we win your case. Call us at 888-419-2229.

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