A Consultant Family Physician at the Family Health Department, Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja, Dr John Ovuoraye, has asked pregnant women to stop taking malaria and cough medicines without doctor’s prescription.
According to the physician, the use of malaria or cough medicine during pregnancy without the doctor’s prescription could lead to birth defects.
Dr. Ovuoraye noted that though the causes of women giving birth to babies with congenital defect could be many, some were as a result of medication taken during pregnancy, warning that not all orthodox medicines could be administered on a pregnant woman even if it was registered by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control.
The physician gave the warning during an exclusive interview with PUNCH HealthWise while also cautioning expectant mothers against the risk of over-the-counter drugs in general.
“All drugs that are administered on people for one ailment or the other, some of them might not be safe for a pregnant woman. The doctor knows that those drugs can affect the development of the baby.
“Even if a pregnant woman was taking a particular drug before she became pregnant, now that she is pregnant, she may not be able to take it again in order not to affect the development of the baby. So, pregnant women should only take drugs based on doctor’s prescription.
“When a woman is pregnant, instead of going to the chemist or pharmacy to buy drugs on her own, she should take time off and visit the hospital and see a doctor who will prescribe for her the right drug that is safe for her in that stage of pregnancy even if it is a malaria drug. It is not all malaria drugs that you can take when you are pregnant.
“But there are some that are safe during pregnancy. So, it is only a physician that will be able to guide you well.
“So, a pregnant woman should not go and buy OTC drugs when she has malaria. That could have negative effect on the development of the baby because the person selling the drug to you is not well guided.”
Dr. Ovuoraye further noted that no medication should be taken for granted during pregnancy including cough medicines.
“A woman may be pregnant and have upper respiratory tract infection like cough, she should not say, ‘I have ordinary cough let me go to the chemist and buy drugs.’
“The chemist that you are going to may not have a pharmacist and the chemist may give you OTC drugs to treat the cough but not all cough medicines are safe for you during pregnancy.
“Only the doctor who is trained will know the malaria drug that is safe for the woman as well as cough medicine or other medications that are safe for a pregnant woman when she is sick.
“Also, a woman that is pregnant is not supposed to take herbal medicine because the toxicity level may affect the baby. The consumption of alcohol during pregnancy also affects the growth of the baby”,
Highlighting the implications of taking drug in pregnancy without doctor’s prescription, the physician noted that birth defect might come in different ways.
“Some babies may have structural defect like cleft lip, cleft palate, extra digit, clubfoot. It can also lead to a congenital heart condition. It can affect the sexual organ or spine of the baby”,
The physician counselled all pregnant women not to take OTC medicines like other persons whether they are having headache, fever, rashes, discharge or any other condition.
“You must report to a health worker who will guide you on the drug to take based on the stage of your pregnancy. Eat healthy and embrace a healthy life style.”
According to the World Health Organisation, malaria infection during pregnancy is a major public health problem, with substantial risks for the mother, her foetus and the neonate.
WHO recommends that Intermittent Preventive Treatment of Malaria in Pregnancy with Sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, a full therapeutic course of antimalarial medicine be given to pregnant women at routine antenatal care visits, regardless of whether the recipient is infected with malaria.
According to WHO, IPT reduces maternal malaria episodes, maternal and foetal anaemia, placental parasitaemia, low birth weight, and neonatal mortality.