Evidence

Anti-Depressants

1. New England Journal of Medicine study, 2007

This study examined the link between selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor anti-depressants and birth defects. This class of drugs includes Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, Lexapro and Celexa.

It documented the following increased risks:

  • Omphalocele: 2.8x increased risk
  • Craniosynostosis: 2.5x increased risk
  • Anencephaly: 2.4x increased risk
  • Transposition of the great arteries: 40% increased risk
  • Gastroschisis: 30% increased risk
  • Pulmonary stenosis: 30% increased risk
  • Tetralogy of Fallot: 20% increased risk

These risks are averages for all of the medications. When examined individually, some of the results are far more frightening. Paxil, for instance, was linked to a nearly sixfold increased risk of a club foot defect.

2. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology study, 2010

This study examined Wellbutrin (bupropion), which is prescribed as an anti-depressant and a smoking cessation aid. When researchers examined the records of more than 12,000 children, they found those exposed to bupropion between one month before and three months after conception were 2.6x more likely to have left outflow tract heart defects than the control sample.

3. Obstetrics & Gynecology study, 2011

This study found a heightened risk of many birth defects associated with SSRI anti-depressants, including:

  • Ventricular heart defects
  • Brain and spinal cord defects
  • “Major cardiovascular anomalies”

Researchers concluded, however, that most of these risks were insignificant when additional study factors were considered. But they still felt some danger remained.

“These findings should guide clinicians to not consider fluoxetine [Prozac] or paroxetine [Paxil] as the first options when prescribing these drugs to women planning pregnancy,” researchers wrote.

Anti-Convulsants

1. New England Journal of Medicine, 2010

A Dutch study published in the journal linked Depakote to shockingly high birth defect risk factors:

  • Spina bifida: 12x increased risk
  • Craniosynostosis: 7x increased risk
  • Hypospadias: 5x increased risk

Additionally, exposure to Depakote has also been connected to lower IQs in children.

2. FDA Warning, 2011

The Food and Drug Administration warned in 2011 that Topamax (topiramate), a drug used to treat epilepsy and migraines, raises the risk of certain birth defects when taken during pregnancy. The risk of a cleft lip or cleft palate increases by 16x when a baby is exposed to Topamax, according to the FDA.

3. New England Journal of Medicine study, 1989

A study published in 1989 linked Tegretol, a drug used to control epilepsy, with higher rates of birth defects and cognitive disabilities in exposed children.

Painkillers

1. CDC Study, 2009

This study examined the use of opioid painkillers — which include codeine, hydrocodone and oxycodone — and found the drugs were tied to increased instances of several birth defects, including:

  • Spina bifida
  • Gastroschisis
  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Septal defects
  • Hypoplastic left heart syndrome
  • Pulmonary stenosis

Accutane

1. FDA Warning, 2005

Since 2005, the FDA has made a strong push to keep women who might become pregnant from using the acne medication Accutane (isotretinoin) due to the risk of birth defects. It is stated unequivocally in the FDA’s November 2005 warning“Isotretinoin causes birth defects.”

Clomid

1. New England Journal of Medicine study, 2012

This study examined assisted contraception methods and found the use of Clomid at home by women without the aid other drugs appeared to increase the risk of birth defects, though the sample size was too small to draw strong conclusions.

2. CDC study, 2010

An examination of data from across the U.S. from 1997 to 2005 found that the use of Clomid was linked to a heightened occurrence of birth defects, including:

  • Dandy-Walker syndrome
  • Anencephaly
  • Craniosynostosis
  • Coarctation of the aorta
  • Omphalocele
  • Septal heart defects

Diflucan

1. FDA Warning, 2011

The FDA warned that chronic high doses of Diflucan in the first trimester of pregnancy “may be associated” with a unique set of defects in children. One-time, low doses of the drug did not appear to cause danger.

According to the FDA, high doses of the drug resulted in changes seen in utero that included misshapen development of the head and face, heart disease and bone and muscle abnormalities, among others.

Pitocin & Valproate

Pitocin, a drug sometimes given to women in labor to induce or speed up delivery, has recently been shown to be associated with adverse outcomes in children – but they aren’t congenital birth defects. Use of the drug appears to be linked to higher rates of autism in children born to mothers given Pitocin during delivery. Nearly 1 in 4 deliveries in the U.S. is induced.

Pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin, a hormone released by the body naturally to trigger contractions during childbirth. Pitocin is typically delivered intravenously.

The anti-convulsant valproic acid, sold under the brand name Valproate, also increases the risk of autism win a child when taking shortly before or during pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other drugs once linked to autism, such as the motion sickness drug thalidomide, were taken off the market long ago after devastating many families.

About Autism Spectrum Disorders

“Autism” is a catch-all phrase for a condition that varies heavily from individual to individual. It affects roughly 1 in 88 children. There are three autism spectrum disorders, or ASDs – autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome and atypical autism.

Autism is typically noticeable by age 3, and it lasts for the entire life of an affected person. It is characterized by social problems, unusual behaviors and irrational and unpredictable mood swings, all of which may vary greatly in intensity for person to person. According to the CDC, a person with autism may:

  • Not respond to his or her name by the age other children do
  • Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings
  • Have delayed speech skills
  • Repeat words of phrases over and over
  • Become upset by minor changes
  • Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look or feel
  • Move his or her hands or body in strange ways

These behaviors may improve over time. The extent to which they impede the ability to live a normal life varies to both extremes. That is why it’s a spectrum.

There are other things besides medication that are shown to increase the likelihood of having a child born with autism, including obesity during pregnancy.

1. Journal of the American Medical Association study, August 2013

study published in August 2013 examined more than 625,000 live births and checked them with subsequent school records for the children. They found that babies – particularly baby boys – born to mothers who underwent induced or “augmented” labor with medicines like Pitocin were more likely to suffer from autism than those born via non-induced labor.

“Our work suggests that induction/augmentation during childbirth is associated with increased odds of autism diagnosis in childhood,” researchers wrote.

2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, May 2013

In May 2013, researchers presented findings reached by studying more than 3,000 births from 2009 to 2011 at the annual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. They found:

  • The use of Pitocin during delivery correlated with unexpected admissions to the neonatal intensive care unit for more than 24 hours.
  • Pitocin was also linked to lower Apgar scores in newborns. Apgar scores are assessed by examining a baby’s breathing, reflexes, appearance and other factors at one minute and 5 minutes after birth.

“The analysis suggests that oxytocin use may not be as safe as once thought …” the organization wrote in a press release explaining the findings.

3. FDA Warning, May 2013

The FDA issued a warning in May 2013 informing pregnant women that they should not take Valproate for migraines due to potential cognitive harm to the unborn child. Children exposed to the drug, according to the FDA, had IQ scores on average 8 to 11 points lower than children exposed to similar medications with different ingredients.