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CDC: Online info unreliable for pregnancy, medication

April 12, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
About 90 percent of pregnant women in the United States take at least one medication. And while many of those medicines are considered safe to take during pregnancy, the effects of others aren't fully known. Adding to the confusion: conflicting reports on the Internet.

Bianca Holmes suffers from allergies and needs medicine to help her through her worst days. But she's pregnant and doesn't want what helps her to hurt her baby, so she goes to the Web for guidance. But the answers are different all over the Internet.

"The confusing and contradictory information leaves me kind of scared," said Holmes.

She's smart to be scared. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found women are being misled by information on multiple websites.

"We found 25 active Internet websites that post such lists of safe medicines to take during pregnancy," said Dr. Cheryl Broussard, CDC National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. "Few of the medications that were on those lists actually had data to back up their claims for safety."

Some of sites have conflicting information. One site says a popular antihistamine is safe to take during pregnancy, while another site cautioned more research is still needed.

That lack of research is a critical part of the CDC's findings. Its study reviewed 245 products with 103 components that were listed as safe on various sites. In 42 percent of the cases, researchers were unable to determine the risk to the unborn child.

"It's not necessarily that the medicines on these lists are dangerous, it's just that we don't know if they're safe or not," said Broussard.

The March of Dimes non-profit health organization points out the confusion is compounded by the fact that certain drugs can be more dangerous during different stages of pregnancy.

"Early in pregnancy, when the fetus is forming the organs, you want to stay away from certain medications that might interfere with development. But later in pregnancy, as you get closer to labor and delivery, you want to stay away from medications that may affect blood-clotting," said Dr. Siobhan Dolan, a medical advisor to the March of Dimes.

The Food and Drug Administration estimates medicines taken during pregnancy result in 10 percent or more of birth defects. That's why the March of Dimes says not to rely on the Internet.

"Women are using these online lists to bypass talking to a healthcare provider, and it's really important that they always consult with a healthcare provider to talk about what's important for them," said Broussard.

Bianca Holmes plans to have a conversation with her doctor.

"Everything that goes into me, it also affects the baby," said Holmes.


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