During pregnancy, some women worry a lot about the potential harms they might expose their developing baby to – medications, smoking, environmental pollutants, workplace hazards and more. Others feel like they’re continuously bombarded with messages that ‘nothing is safe’ and ‘you can’t do / eat/ drink anything you want to do / eat / drink because you’re pregnant.’
If parents look in the popular media, they see a wide range of information: some accurate and research-based but hard to read, some easy to read but not so accurate. It helps to have good resources to point expectant parents to. These are in order from the ones that I think are most broad / helpful to parents to those which are less broad or less helpful.
The Mother to Baby website from OTIS (Organization of Teratology Information Specialists) has a large collection of fact sheets on specific hazards that are research-based and consumer friendly (though not for a low reading level). Topics include medications, herbal products, infectious diseases, illicit substances, and maternal medical conditions. http://www.mothertobaby.org/otis-fact-sheets-s13037
The March of Dimes http://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/staying-safe.aspx is a very consumer friendly site with good summaries on lots of topics.
Center for Disease Control (CDC). Lots of helpful information and links on infectious diseases, medication, workplace hazards, and more. http://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy
LactMed – Drugs and Lactation Database. For info on medications and breastfeeding. “Information on the levels of such substances in breast milk and infant blood, and the possible adverse effects in the nursing infant. Suggested therapeutic alternatives to those drugs are provided.” http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/newtoxnet/lactmed.htm
FDA information for Expectant and New Parents. Info on food safety, breast pumps, ultrasounds, and more. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForWomen/WomensHealthTopics/ucm117976.htm
The Environmental Working Group offers Consumer Guides on choosing healthier (for humans and the planet) products: pesticides in produce, cleaning products, cosmetics, genetically engineered foods, and lots more. http://www.ewg.org/consumer-guides
MotherRisk. The website includes a few fact sheets, plus links to research studies on medications, herbs, and infectious diseases. For Canadians, they offer phone hotlines for questions about medications exposures, nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, exercise in pregnancy, and HIV and pregnancy. http://www.motherisk.org/prof/index.jsp
Reproductive Health in the Workplace has info about workplace exposures and breastfeeding and on how not to take your workplace hazards home with you. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/repro/pregnancy.html
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) Standards related to reproductive hazards in the workplace: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/reproductivehazards/standards.html
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists hotlines consumers can call with questions on particular hazardous substances: http://www2.epa.gov/home/epa-hotlines
Safety and International Travel: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel
How Expectant Parents Can Help
Part of the reason there is limited information on the safety of substances during pregnancy is because of limited research on pregnant women. Expectant parents can volunteer to be in a pregnancy registry. These studies just collect information from pregnancy parents who take medications and vaccines, and collect information on the baby. Outcomes are compared to those of parents who did not take that medication during pregnancy.
Participating parents are NOT taking experimental drugs or anything they wouldn’t otherwise take!! These registries are an opportunity for parents who are already taking medication or need to take a medication to share their experience with researchers. It might especially appeal to parents who are frustrated at how little information is available to them about their meds. This helps them help others moving forward.
Participating would typically involve a few phone calls (or possibly even online surveys): one or two during pregnancy, and one after the birth. I
If you are a professional who would like to encourage your clients to participate in registries, there are outreach materials (brochures, etc.) available here: http://www.fda.gov/ScienceResearch/SpecialTopics/WomensHealthResearch/ucm256789.htm