New research published in the September issue of the journal Birth Defects Research Part B found that pregnant women who take NSAIDs — non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs — in the first trimester run an increased risk of having a child with congenital birth defects, particularly heart anomalies.
Canadian researchers conducted a population-based study of more than 36,000 pregnant women in Quebec, and found that women who filled prescriptions for NSAIDs early in pregnancy were twice as likely to give birth to babies with any birth defect, and more than three times as likely to have infants with heart defects — mainly anomalies related to cardiac septal closure. The researchers found that no significant defects were found in other major organ systems.
The researchers wrote that the effects of NSAID exposure near the end of pregnancy — which causes other heart defects — have been well documented, but that the risks of early exposure had previously been unclear.
The most common NSAID prescriptions filled in the study were for Aleve (naproxen), Advil (ibuprofen), Vioxx (rofecoxib), Celebrex (celecoxib) and Cataflam or Arthrotec (declofenac).
The researchers called for more extensive future studies to strengthen their findings.
“This research just goes to demonstrate yet again the dangers of taking pharmaceuticals — even over-the-counter drugs — while pregnant,” said Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate. “The FDA is utterly failing to protect the public from these health risks or to even enhance awareness of such risks through announcements or press conferences.”
“Can you imagine the national outcry if an herb or vitamin was found to cause congenital birth defects?” Adams asked.