New drug guidelines mean peace of mind for moms-to-be

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The Food and Drug Administration is set to make important updates to prescription labels for pregnant women. These revisions will be the first since 1979. The medical community is hopeful that these updates will help ensure expectant moms get the health care they need while managing chronic conditions with medications throughout pregnancy.

To make sense of the push behind these updates, consider your own pregnancy: How many times have you skipped Tylenol for a headache because you thought "less is best" or "natural is better"? This line of reasoning extends to far more complicated health matters such as chronic pain, epilepsy or depression, with many women weaning themselves off medication while they're expecting.

What's the trouble?

"Pregnant women get sick and sick women get pregnant. But somehow we have created this myth of the medication-free pregnancy," Dr. Katherine Wisner, a professor and psychiatrist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told the Chicago Tribune. But stopping treatment for serious ailments can have adverse effects on developing babies.

The solution

This June, the FDA will roll out a new system for prescription drug labeling, meant to provide doctors with the most up-to-date information on treating pregnant women. Instead of a confusing system that rated drugs from A to X based on their toxicity to fetuses, the new labels will be broken down into three categories: One will help health care providers determine any negative effects on unborn babies, another will provide information on data and collected research and yet another will address the drug's effects on female fertility.

What this means

The FDA's updated prescription labeling is meant to provide doctors and midwives with a more well-rounded picture to help determine treatment for pregnant women. While you won't see a change on your medicine bottle, your health care provider will have more details at his or her fingertips when helping you choose the right medication. For expecting moms with chronic health conditions, this move from the FDA is a step in the right direction.

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