New Study: Growth Restricted Babies at Higher Risk From Pregnancy Medications

Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) is a common pregnancy condition. It affects about one in every seven pregnancies. Taking medications during pregnancy is also common. In fact, close to 100 percent of women will take some kind of medication during pregnancy. Possibilities include over-the-counter medications, and prescriptions drugs for pain, depression, diabetes, asthma, and morning sickness.

Most of these drugs cross from mothers to babies in the womb by crossing the placenta. Although guidelines for drug use during pregnancy take this into account. They do not account for IUGR babies. According to a new study from researchers at the University of South Australia, this could be a problem. One size does not fit all when it comes to drugs during pregnancy.

The researchers are alerting doctors and pregnant women to a problem that may affect babies with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). Their findings are reported in the medical journal Placenta.

According to the researchers, the problem with drugs for these babies is not so much that they are small. It has more to do with drug metabolizing enzymes (DMEs) that babies need to break down drugs. The researchers have found that IUGR babies have less effective DMEs, which can lead to drug toxicity at normal doses.

IUGR may be diagnosed during a pregnancy when a prenatal ultrasound shows that a baby is not growing at a normal rate. These babies are more likely to be born with a low birth weight. IUGR babies need to be watched more closely. They may need to stay in the hospital longer after birth. Although most IUGR babies catch up to and achieve a normal size and weight by age 2, the researchers are concerned that drug toxicity in the womb may lead to long-term health problems. IUGR babies may be at higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, and lower resistance to infection.

IUGR tends to run in families, but you may reduce your risk by working with your doctor to control high blood pressure, not smoking, not drinking, and not abusing any drugs during pregnancy. It also helps to eat a healthy diet with enough calories and to get about eight hours of sleep at night.

The researchers are calling for more research and new guidelines on safe levels of medications for women with IUGR. If you have been diagnosed with IUGR, talk to your doctor about any medication you take and how it may affect a growth restricted baby, you may be able to lower the dose or switch to a less toxic medication.

Christopher Iliades
Dr. Chris Iliades is a medical doctor with 20 years of experience in clinical medicine and clinical research. Chris has been a full time medical writer and journalist since 2004. His byline appears in over 1,000 articles online including EverydayHealth, The Clinical Advisor, and Healthgrades. He has also written for print media including Cruising World Magazine, MD News, and The Johns Hopkins Children's Center Magazine. Chris lives with his wife and close to his three children and four grandchildren in the Boston area.

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