Pavel A. Kovganko
Pregnancy is a unique condition for women, and childbirth has always been considered to be one of the most important events in a woman’s life. Maternity has always been highly respected and esteemed. People have always regarded the birth of a child as a gift from God.
A wanted child brings happiness to a family; it is a gift from God. And, of course, every woman who wants to give birth wants to bring up a healthy and beautiful child. Unfortunately, the health index of the modern generation of women at child-bearing age is not very high (there are many chronic diseases, spiritual poverty, with a high vulnerability to different infections due to a variety of reasons). Due to this reason, medical interference in what is a natural process has become more frequent recently. Statistics show that more than 92% of women use different drugs at different stages of pregnancy. The question is to what extent this medication is safe for the future baby. This is a fundamentally important matter to investigate because a pregnant woman taking any chemicals is in essence applying a kind of experiment on her as well as the baby’s health which can have a variety of different consequences.
The problem of medical effects on the development of a fetus has recently become very acute. This is because there are many different medications that are common and easily available nowadays, and they are very often taken without a doctor’s prescription. Unfortunately, the consequences of this fact are not pleasant. Prenatal development is one of the most important and difficult stages in a person’s life. Just in 9 months an ovicell (an egg cell) and a sperm cell form an extremely complex living organism that consists of millions and billions of cells! Moreover, all these cells are combined into tissues, organs and systems that are always interacting. The fetus has a fascinating rate of growth to become a structure with an ever-increasing complexity. In addition, all these processes do not happen chaotically but in a strict order. This order is supplied by two factors: the first is a sound genetic program. It is obtained by the fetus from its parents and the decoding of the genome vividly denotes the existence of Divine Power. The second factor is the state of a maternal organism which supplies everything necessary for the realization of the genetic program and protects the fetus from the negative influence of the environment. In this way the failure of one of the mentioned factors can lead to different deviations and to the disturbance of the development, including the formation of congenital malformations of the fetus and even prenatal death.
The history of medicine shows that medications can be the most harmful etiological factor in relation to the fetus. Today, there are many examples proving this fact. One of the best-known is the thalidomide tragedy which happened in Europe in the 1950-60s. As a result of taking a poorly studied medicine (a light tranquilizer) the children of hundreds (!) of women were born with serious physical defects. Unfortunately, the list of drugs that causes fetal malformation is not short. Nowadays doctors are aware of syndromes caused by hydantoin, warfarin, aminopterin, and many other medications. Each of these has a specific effect on the fetus (mostly leading to serious abnormalities) when taken by a pregnant woman. In the past, people believed that such children were marked by Satan. But nowadays we say that it is the unpredictable effect of the medicine on the realization of the Creator’s program. Medical interference can lead to a disruption in the rate of development and affect the order of differentiation in the tissues and organs of fetus. Moreover, drugs can interrupt the blood circulation in the placenta, change the metabolic process between the fetus and the mother, causing a retardation of intrauterine growth or premature labor, or they can be the reason for a falloff in the health of the child in the first years of life.
The influence of drugs on the fetus depends on different factors, such as the term of gestation at which the drug is administered, the dosage, and the length of time that the medicine is taken, as well as the ways that the drug is excreted, the health of the mother and her inherited sensitivity to medicine, and, of course, the properties of the medicine itself. There are many drugs whose influence on the fetus have not yet been examined, as such research is very difficult, expensive, or in many cases simply impossible. If we understand this, we can see that the outlook for scientific interference in God’s creation of human beings is not good.
You may wonder why the wide-spread usage of medication by pregnant women throughout the whole world has not lead to a continuous increase in congenital malformations if it is really this dangerous. Thanks to a happy concourse of circumstances, this process has not become too wide-spread, as there are many factors that allow the fetus to “escape” medical danger. For example, there may be an inherited insensitivity on the part of the fetus to the influence of different medications, the placenta has its own inherent protective function, the medication may be taken in a small dosage, the developmental stage of the fetus may be at a “non-critical” period, plus many other factors. Doubtless, although this has not been proven, is the fact that the mother has a sincere faith in God and believes in God’s protection of her and her child, which has a positive influence on the development of the fetus.
The initial clustering of embryonic cells and the formation of all the fetus’ organs and systems occur in the first trimester of pregnancy. It is particularly in this period that the fetus is very sensitive to the influence of different factors, including different drugs.
It is quite common that the results of the use of some teratogens1 by pregnant women, which can have fatal effects, can simply go unnoticed in some cases, resulting in the death of the fetus during the first two weeks of development. In this case, the woman does not even know that she is pregnant. Such cases are not rare (according to some researchers, up to 70% of all pregnancies finish in the early death of the fetus).
What should a pregnant woman do if she is ill or feeling unwell? How can she effectively help herself and minimize the risk of any medications on her baby at the same time? It is never a good idea to self-medicate if you are pregnant, particularly in the case of little-known or untested medications. In any case, it is better to consult an experienced doctor or pharmacist. If for some reason this is impossible, please read the prospectus which is to be found with the medicine carefully. Which dangers the medicine can cause are probably mentioned on the prospectus, and it may be written that the drug should not be used if pregnant. If a drug has been used while being unaware of pregnancy (for example, during the first 2 weeks) then immediately consult a specialist about any possible negative effects there might be for the fetus as soon as you found out that your are pregnant. Going to see your doctor early will allow you the necessary time to avoid any dangers and allow you to arrive at a decision about this pregnancy. If the medicine has been prescribed by a doctor then be sure to ask about possible unwanted side effects for the fetus. Don’t hesitate to ask such questions. If it seems to you that your doctor’s attitude to this question is not serious enough (unfortunately, this happens quite often) then consult a competent specialist (a geneticist or a clinical pharmacist).
If you are just planning your pregnancy, then try to predict all the negative factors beforehand. If you have some chronic diseases which may become acute during the pregnancy, or if you have an allergic predisposition or high sensitivity to acute respiratory diseases, then you should consult a doctor. Preventive methods which have been worked out especially for you minimize the risk of the illness and the risk of using drugs that are potentially harmful to the fetus.
During early stages of ontogenesis the fetus has almost no adaptation mechanisms or specific reactions in its response to the influence of pathogenic agents. Only with time will the fetus’ main organs and systems become mature and the functions of the placenta fully form the morphological and functional backgrounds of the response characteristics peculiar to a new-born baby. We usually say that everything happens according to God’s Will but He has created us for a full, vivid, and creative life. And He wants us to understand and be attentive to the miracle that happens during pregnancy.
- Agents such as drugs, chemicals and infections that can cause birth defects when a mother is exposed to them during pregnancy.