NH DHHS - National Birth Defects Prevention Month Spotlights Medication Use During Pregnancy

Concord, NH – January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, and this year’s campaign focuses on medication use before, during, and after pregnancy. The New Hampshire Birth Conditions Program and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) is joining over 350 members of the National Birth Defects Prevention Network to share the message that women of childbearing age should talk with a doctor about which medications are safe to take while pregnant. Medication use during pregnancy is common: two out of every three women take prescription medications during pregnancy.

“Women of childbearing age should discuss any medications they plan to take or are taking, whether prescription or over-the-counter, with a doctor,” says Dr. José Montero, Director of Public Health Services. “Though many women know that certain prescription medications can cause birth defects, they may not be aware that some dietary supplements and herbal remedies may also harm a developing fetus.”

Not all medications should be discontinued during pregnancy; some may need to be changed or adjusted. Medical conditions such as diabetes, influenza, and asthma need to be managed during pregnancy and may harm both mother and baby if left untreated. In some cases, doctors may need to weigh the benefits of a medication against the potentially harmful effects.

A baby’s organs, such as the heart, brain, and spine, begin developing in the first few weeks, before a woman may even realize she is pregnant. For that reason, it is important for women to have conversations with their health care providers about medications before pregnancy. Every woman should take a multivitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid daily, starting before pregnancy, to improve the likelihood of delivering a healthy baby. Pregnant women should also eat a healthy diet, not smoke, avoid alcohol, and get a flu shot.

The National Birth Defects Prevention Network has members from all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico. The Network collects and distributes information about birth defects and their prevention, encourages research, and provides technical support to state and local birth defects monitoring programs. To learn more about the Network and Birth Defects Prevention Month, please visit www.nbdpn.org.

The New Hampshire Birth Conditions Program is a member of the Network and works with DPHS to detect trends in the occurrence of birth conditions in New Hampshire; evaluates access to supportive health services; guides and assesses the progress of statewide prevention activities; and educates the community, health care providers, and service agencies regarding birth conditions. To learn more about the New Hampshire Birth Conditions Program call 603-653-3163 or visit www.nhbcp.org. For more information about having a healthy baby, visit the New Hampshire DHHS Maternal and Child Health website at www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/bchs/mch/index.htm.