A mysterious rash of birth defects in Washington State has health officials asking the public for help in identifying the common cause. More than 30 children have been diagnosed with anencephaly, a rare birth defect that results in a child being born missing part of the skull or part of the brain. This strange occurrence, first noted by a Washington state nurse, has left the medical community baffled.
Birth defects affect over 120,000 babies a year in the United States, costing the country and its citizens millions of dollars. Many of these defects are almost completely random, such as the genetic mutation that results in Down Syndrome. But some birth defects are caused by exposure to various substances, and expectant mothers must be particularly careful about what they touch or ingest.
One of the most famous examples of a foreign substance causing birth defects was Thalidomide, a drug prescribed to many pregnant women in the 1950s to treat anxiety and other ailments. Doctors didn’t discover Thalidomide caused birth defects until over 10,000 children were born with abnormalities.
We would like to think that giving dangerous medications to pregnant women is a thing of the past, but it isn’t. Even now, doctors are prescribing drugs without knowing for sure whether or not they cause birth defects. Drugs are given to expectant mothers so long as they haven’t been demonstrated to cause defects. As with Thalidomide, it’s impossible to know for sure until babies are affected.
If you are pregnant and need to take a medication, make sure you:
- Research the drug on the Internet, determining if it has been proven not to cause birth defects or whether there is still just an assumption that it does not.
- Listen to your body. If something you are taking does not feel right, go to your doctor and demand a different treatment.
- Make all your regularly scheduled visits to your OBGYN or midwife.
- Do not hesitate to ask questions during sonograms to check in and make sure your baby is developing normally.
Even if you sense something is wrong, it might to too late if the exposure has already occurred. Sometimes it is simply random chance that determines which baby does and which baby does not develop a problem.
If you are unsure whether your child’s birth defect might have been caused by something you were prescribed or exposed to, don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer who will help you get the answers you and your child deserve.