Updated: Jul 9, 2021
History of pharmaceutical research will forever be saddled, with the weight of the Thalidomide disaster that occurred in the 1960s. This disaster resulted from the use of Thalidomide, a mild sleep-inducing pill that was supposed to be safe for pregnant women. Thalidomide was developed and licensed in 1956 by the West German Pharmaceutical Company, Chemie Grünenthal. The drug was approved in many countries but not approved in the United States of America.
According to research, an Australian obstetrician, Dr. William McBride discovered that the drug also alleviated morning sickness. This discovery made him recommend this off label use of Thalidomide to his pregnant patients, setting a worldwide trend. After some time, he associated women who took Thalidomide to manage symptoms of morning sickness as the reason why thousands of babies were born with malformed limbs. The drug was then banned by many countries.
Literature has it, that, the tragedy of Thalidomide led to changes that strengthened both the regulatory and scientific environment for medication product development.
Medicine use before, during, and after pregnancy is one of the most crucial decisions that need to be taken seriously; pregnancy comes with its associated problems hence the need to eliminate any factor that could put both mother and baby at risk. The first three months of pregnancy are critical because of the development of vital organs of the fetus. Taking drugs around that stage could increase the chance of birth abnormalities. Pregnant women are usually advised during ante-natal meetings to seek expert advice before using any medication.
However, some studies have shown that pregnant women may not always report their use of alcohol or other drugs. Also, it has been found that illicit drugs have been associated with preterm delivery, low birth weight infants, placental abruption, and neonatal intensive care admissions. The Thalidomide disaster that took place many years ago created an awareness of the harmful effect of some drugs on developing fetuses.
Over the counter medications such as Ibuprofen, Aspirin, herbal medicines, and beverages such as coffee and tea can damage fetuses. Coffee, according to research, contains caffeine, a drug derivative from a chemical family called Xanthines. Two related chemicals, Theophylline and Theobroma, are found in tea and chocolate, respectively.
Xanthines are wild central nervous system stimulants that increase mental alertness, increases heart muscle contraction, and oxygen consumption. Xanthines can cause damage like heart problems, when taken in large quantities, not just to pregnant women but their fetuses as well. Recreational drugs like; marijuana, heroin and cocaine when used by pregnant women would cause withdrawal symptoms in fetus.
Furthermore, the use of herbal medicines among local people is a concern to healthcare practitioners in Ghana. The issue is not whether the medication is potent or not, but whether it would not have any adverse effect on both mother and fetus.
Most people are of the view that herbal medicines do not have side effects and have continually abused herbal medicine; this practice is common among pregnant women. There has not been much research supporting herbal medication as compared to orthodox medicine hence the tendency to cause a similar scare like that caused by the Thalidomide disaster in the 1960s.
Most pregnant women in rural areas in Ghana use herbal medicine through some unconventional mode of preparation, hence the need for healthcare givers to be aware of this practice and make efforts in obtaining information about herbal use during antenatal care.
Next time any pregnant woman decides to take any medication, they should always remember some implications like taking a monster that could either swallow up a limb, nose, eye or cause a defect of the heart of the fetus involved. Be wise; your baby is important not just to you but to the world.