Prescription drugs

While the total picture of what causes spina bifida has not been elucidated yet, it is clear that some medications both prescribed and over the counter, can increase the risk of the child having this developmental birth defect. Since the defect occurs during the first few weeks of pregnancy, a pregnant woman should be particularly careful about her drug intake during the first trimester. If a child has a genetic propensity for spina bifida, these drugs can add to the risk of having this neural tube defect.

The decision of whether to become pregnant or not for women who must take prescription medication to control organic disease such as depression or seizures becomes a real struggle. Should the woman risk suffering from her disease during pregnancy or should she continue to take her medication and risk her child suffering from spina bifida? This is something that should be considered seriously and discussed at length with a doctor.

FDA Warns how certain drugs like Depakote and other antidepressants or antiepileptic drugs can cause Spina Bifida

In particular, antidepressants that increase the concentration of serotonin available in a woman’s system (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs) seem to especially increase a child’s risk for spina bifida. These medications are wonderful at controlling depression with very few side effects, but they do seem to be the culprit in several various birth defects. It is important to note that women who stop taking their depression medication during pregnancy have a much higher rate of serious, clinical recurring depression than women who continue to take their medication. The SSRIs implicated in this birth defect include Prozac, Lexapro, Paxil, Zoloft and Celexa, among others. The percentage risk of a child having spina bifida, if the mother takes an SSRI during pregnancy has not been clearly established.

Another class of medication pointing to an increased risk of spina bifida is the anti—convulsant class of drugs. A woman who suffers from bipolar disease, seizures, or PTSD will often take this type of medication to control their disease. Drugs in this class include Topamax or Depokote. These drugs seem to directly affect the ability of the fetus and mother to metabolize folate well, thus they are directly implicated in the folate metabolic pathway. Once again, there are cases when a pregnant woman must take these medications for their own organic illness. There may be a higher risk to the mother if she stops taking the medication than the risk of having a child with spina bifida. These relative risks are important to weigh and discuss with a doctor.


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