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Pregnant women are being urged to consult with their doctor or pharmacist before taking any form of medication during pregnancy.

The importance of doing so, to avoid birth defects in children, was underscored during the first of two webinars hosted by the National Council on Substance Abuse entitled: Chemicals to Avoid During Pregnancy.

Speaking during the webinar, Pharmacist with the Barbados Drug Service, Julie Williams, outlined that over-the-counter medicine, some cough syrups, antibiotics and even hypertension and diabetic medication could contain ingredients that may be potentially harmful to a growing foetus.

“Care must always be taken when using chemicals or drugs during pregnancy, as some drugs can have a terrible effect on the foetus,” she cautioned.

She warned that while antibiotics were used to treat various forms of infection, they should be avoided especially during the second and third trimester of pregnancy. “It has been shown that some antibiotics can stain and discolour a baby’s milk teeth and even severely impact bone growth,” Ms. Williams outlined.

She further cautioned that some forms of antibiotics could also cause grey baby syndrome, which is a grey discolouration around the baby’s mouth, temple and eyes.

The pharmacist added that those who suffered from non-communicable diseases, such as high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes, should consult with their doctors before becoming pregnant, or immediately after discovering they were pregnant.

“What you are using for your hypertension or diabetes may cause problems for your foetus, and therefore it is important to let the doctor know you are pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant because they are more likely to give you different medication to suit your needs and avoid problems later,” Ms. Williams said.

She stressed that the drugs to avoid during pregnancy depended on a number of factors such as the drug itself, the state of the pregnancy, and the risks posed to the mother and foetus.

In addition, pregnant women were also warned against trusting that a product was safe to use because it was natural.  The Pharmacist explained that some natural products were contraindicated and could also create challenges in pregnancy.

“Recognise that drugs can be harmful to the foetus.  You need to communicate with your physician, your pharmacist, your dentist, health care professional,” she stressed.

In offering advice on what they should do, Ms. Williams urged pregnant women to read the labels and packet inserts and seek clarification for things they do not understand.

Pregnant women were also cautioned against taking over-the-counter drugs without consultation, and using medication not prescribed for another person, even if their symptoms were similar. However, Ms. Williams stressed that overall, pregnant women should avoid using any drugs.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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