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More Evidence Connects Rare Birth Defect to Mother’s Painkiller Use

Much news has been made recently about the link between parental painkiller use and preventable birth defects. Our Chicago birth injury lawyers wrote about this very topic last month. We explained how the problem should be viewed in two different ways. On one hand, there is growing alarm about the amount of children who are born to mothers that are addicted to painkillers. Many children develop opiate addictions while in the womb, because of their mother’s intentional consumption of painkillers during the pregnancy. This is a worrisome social problem, that many maternity ward nurses are working hard to combat. However, there is a second problem that is not related to mothers who are intentionally addicted to the painkillers. Instead, research is showing that even slight exposure to certain drugs among women in the earliest part of their pregnancies leads to increased risks of certain birth injuries.

The second problem is particularly troubling because many women (and doctors) had no idea that taking even common painkillers may present risks. If more research continues to pour in on the issue, it may be vital for medical professionals to change their practices to prevent these injuries from occurring.

The latest research on the topic was discussed last week by Fox News Health. It was explained how certain rare birth defects were seen more often depending on whether or not mothers took certain over-the-counter medications during the early stage of their pregnancy. The painkillers involved included common pills like aspirin, Aleve, and Advil. Babies born to mothers that had taken aspirin or Aleve where several times more likely to be born with eye problems like abnormally small eyes or no eyes at all. Amniotic band syndrome-a condition that causes malformations like clubfoot-were at least three times more likely among those who had taken painkillers. While these increases are troubling, experts admit that it is still too early to say with certainty that the increased birth injury risks are directly caused by the painkiller use.

Part of the reason why more research is needed is that the actual occurrence of many of these defects is so rare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that the eye problems (anophthalmia and microphthalmia) occur in only one out of 5,300 births. Amniotic band syndrome is even rarer, seen in only one out of every 10,000 births.

These painkiller finding were published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Researchers involved in the study reached their conclusions based on data culled and analyzed from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. As part of the study women were asked of their over-the-counter drug use during various parts of their pregnancy. The answers among 20,000 women were compared, some with birth defects and some without. Nearly thirty different defects were analyzed. In the vast majority of those defects, there seemed to be no connection to the use of these painkillers. However, the few rare defects mentioned above did show some connection to the mother’s drug use. Others that also seem connected to painkiller use was that for cleft palate and spina bifida).

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