It used to be thought that the unborn baby was protected from harm by the placenta which filtered out dangerous chemicals. The tragedy of the limb-deficient Thalidomide babies in the 1970’s, however, connected the use of drug with very real consequences to the growing fetus. Additional anomalies were detected in off-spring of women who took DES.
No drug has been found SAFE for the unborn baby. Generally, the greatest danger from maternal drug consumption is seen in drug use during the first trimester of the pregnancy. Some drugs will only cause problems if taken with other drugs or if taken at a certain critical point in the development of the baby. It must be assumed that every drug the mother takes during her pregnancy will cross the placenta and reach the baby. This includes prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs like aspirin.
The best and safest course to take is to avoid all drugs during labor. The effects of many pain relieving drugs last much longer in the newborn than in the mother. Barbiturates and sedatives may cause the newborn to have respiratory difficulties and sucking problems. Narcotics such as Demerol, Stadol, Dilaudid, etc., can affect the newborn’s ability to breathe and alter the baby’s behavior for weeks. Mothers who get a tranquilizer may also be lowering their baby’s heart rate or temperature, cause poor muscle tone in their babies and alter the baby’s responsiveness and behavior.
A great many American women receive PITOCIN at some point during their labor to initiate labor or speed up the process. It has a known side-effect of affecting the baby’s heart rate causing oxygen deprivation. It has also been linked with newborn jaundice.
At the 1994 MANA Convention in Chicago, I spoke with numerous labor and delivery nurses from the area who were disgusted at the high rates of intervention at their hospitals. Many of these nurses claimed that their hospitals had about a 90% epidural rate! They acknowledged that the real risks of taking this form of regional anesthetic was never really mentioned to the women who asked for or accepted the procedure and other drugs. As more women receive this form of pain relief, hopefully more research and documentation on the adverse effects of this procedure will accumulate and be made available to the public. Currently we know that if any of the drug finds its way into the blood stream, the baby’s heart rate may change and the baby may be depressed at birth. The passage of the baby through the birth canal is also affected due to the relaxing of the mother’s tissue from the medication.
ALTERNATIVES FOR PRE-LABOR DRUGS
Many alternatives to drugs are available. For those who reach immediately for the aspirin bottle with a headache, relaxation techniques may be a good substitute. Allergy symptoms that include watery eyes, runny nose and coughs may be healed as much by honey and lemon as by all the cold medicines on the market. Massage can alleviate sore muscles and backaches and insomnia.
Many herbal preparations are currently for sale to alleviate frequent problems. Homeopathic remedies are also available in many drug stores. The low does herbal and homeopathic remedies available are generally safe when used appropriately according to the directions. Many books have been published to guide the consumer.