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Popular Pain and Anxiety Medicine Linked to Birth Defects

A study published in the journal Neurology concluded that there may be a link between pregnant women's use of the drug pregabalin and birth defects. Pregabalin, which is sold under the name Lyrica, is a popular prescription drug used to treat anxiety, seizures and nerve pain, including from fibromyalgia, diabetes and shingles.

The study, conducted by Swiss Teratogen Information Service and reported on in Time magazine, found that women who took Lyrica for any reason during pregnancy had a significantly higher risk of having a baby with birth defects. That risk is three-fold if she was taking the drug during the first trimester. In studies conducted on animals, there was a higher rate of skeletal and neural tube defects for babies exposed to Lyrica in utero.

Researchers didn't know what the connection was between Lyrica and birth defects and, as reported in Time, the head researcher said patients often take the drug alongside other prescription medications. Moreover, those taking Lyrica are also more likely to be smokers, a known cause of birth defects, indicating more research is needed.

The risk of developing birth defects in a mother who uses pregabalin is still considerably small, which researchers were clear in pointing out. Women and men of childbearing age should keep this in mind and also discuss with their doctors any medications they are taking and make an informed decision related to these and other risks.

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