Posted by Fiona Cole on March 11, 2011
For the many women who suffer from migraines, new findings have brought warnings about the risks of taking migraine medication during pregnancy. U.S. health officials have announced that a drug used for the treatment of migraines has been linked to an increased risk of birth defects.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, new research shows that cleft lips or cleft palate deformities can be caused by Johnson & Johnson’s Topamax when taken by pregnant women. The medication is also known as “topiramate,” its chemical name, and it is sold by several other drug manufacturers including Mylan Inc., Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
Cleft lips and cleft palate deformities are characterized by a gap in the roof of the mouth or a “split lip.” They occur as a result of the mouth not being fully formed. Several development issues can be caused by cleft lips and cleft palates as they hinder the baby’s ability to receive adequate nutrition.
The effects of a cleft lip or cleft palate deformity can be traumatic for both baby and parents, but the good news is that both cleft lips and cleft palates can be fixed surgically — although sometimes it will require a number of procedures.
Knowing that there is a solution to the problem is certainly reassuring for mothers who might have taken the medication and are worried about the risks. But, of course, the best possible defense in any situation involving medical issues is to be well-informed.
FDA officials are now recommending that doctors inform female patients who are considering taking migration medication of the increased risks of birth defects associated with the drug. Russell Katz, head of the FDA’s Division of Neurology Products, warned that any doctor who is considering prescribing the medication to female patients of childbearing age should think carefully and noted “alternative medications that have a lower risk of birth defects should be considered.”
Pregnant women can arm themselves with questions for their doctors about any medications that are being considered. Holistic practices such as yoga therapy and meditation can also provide additional, safe relief for pregnant women suffering from migraines.