A local doctor is trying to keep new mothers informed about changing wisdom on medication.
Dr. Carl Weiner, the head of obstetrics at University of Kansas Hospital, wrote a book with journalist Kate Rope, in part to correct the sometimes faulty advice handed down from mother to daughter.
"Every week there are 30 phone calls with women asking questions," Weiner said. "We like to think that this book will be a stimulus for conversation between a patient and her physician."
"I do what a lot of other patients do," said first time mother-to-be and hospital sonographer Lyndsay Fundell, "and that is look anywhere they can find information. Sometimes it's online and you get a lot of contradicting information. And it's hard to know what resources are accurate."
Fundell found Weiner's book, The Complete Guide to Medications During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding, a useful resource for those little questions that popped up.
"Sometimes there are just simple questions," she said. "How many times a day can I take Tylenol? You may know the answer is Tylenol, but you may not know how often you should be or can be taking it."
The problem, Weiner said, is that many women take an all-or-nothing approach, either stopping a medication or not questioning what they are taking.
"Call someone who is informed and ask specific questions about whether you should continue that medication," he advised, "or whether you should switch to another one or whether you need that medication at all."
The questions about medication management can be especially stressful for women who have serious health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes or depression, but they are also important for commonplace issues like allergies.
Trying to ignore congestion can lead to a bacterial infection, and that can cause harm to fetal development. Though not all allergy medicines are safe for babies, some are, and the antibiotic penicillin has no history of harming a fetus.
To put it simply, he said, "What we focus on is risk versus benefit."
One example is anti-depressants. They are rather commonly prescribed for a variety of conditions. If someone has been taking them for years and hasn't seen much of a change, a doctor might suggest trying to wean off them. Others can't function without them. In that case, a doctor might suggest switching to an anti-depression with fewer side effects.
"One of the most common causes of maternal death is suicide after delivery from postpartum depression," he explained. "Women who have a tendency to develop depression are actually at greatest risk after delivery. Why would you subject yourself to that risk knowingly? And yet it happens every week."
Another fallacy that might seem like common sense for those not practicing medicine is what is off limits during pregnancy is also off limits during breastfeeding.
"I hear that logic commonly," Weiner said, "so they will stop all medication, or you will hear the opposite, ‘Well, it's OK now because I'm not pregnant and the baby's been born.'"
Different things get to a baby in different ways.
"There are 30 different drugs," he said, using anti-depressants as an example, "and though half of them may be related, they have different behaviors when it comes to whether they are transported across the placenta or transport into breast milk. It just varies, and the only way to know is to check."
Along with what not to take, and in what circumstances, the book also discusses what should be taken. That includes vitamins like folic acid.
"Folic acid decreases the risk of a large range of birth defects," he said.
It is most effective when taken ahead of time, not weeks after conception, when a woman gets positive proof of pregnancy.
The book is not intended to replace advice from your obstetrician. It's to serve as a second opinion and to guide an expectant mother in asking the right questions, something Weiner hopes women do before they become pregnant, so they can make those changes early.
By the time a woman misses her first menstrual cycle, they are often four weeks into their pregnancy - a crucial time frame for development.
Weiner said people can get all the guidelines from the FDA, but the FDA is slow to update information after a drug is released. Also, the information isn't always readable and easy to understand for the average person.
The bottom line, he said: Think about what you are taking, prescription and over-the-counter, and talk to your doctor about potential changes.
The book, The Complete Guide to Medications During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding, is available at Walgreens and on Amazon.com.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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