(Salt Lake City, UT) – Imagine you’re pregnant and your doctor has prescribed you some new medication to help treat your depression. Is it safe? Or as a breastfeeding mom, you wonder if the over-the-counter allergy medication you take for seasonal allergies will decrease your breastmilk supply. Where do you go for answers? Since May 1984, experts with the MotherToBaby Utah program have answered these questions by phone, email, and text, providing individualized advice to women and their healthcare providers. Now, 33 years later, staff will begin answering questions by chat, a first for the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) program.
“Pregnant and breastfeeding women want to protect their babies and will seek information on the internet and from other sources that may not always be correct,” said Al Romeo, nurse with the UDOH MotherToBaby program.
MotherToBaby Utah is the only Teratogen Information Service in Utah and one of only 12 such services in the United States. These services are the leading authorities on the safety of exposures during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Experts answer questions about medications, drugs, chemicals, and other environmental exposures that can potentially harm an embryo, fetus, or infant and even the impact these can have on breastmilk production.
In 2016, MTB UT staff answered questions from more than 6,700 individuals. The top five concerns from callers were the safety of:
- medications for mental health conditions
- allergy and cold mediations
- dietary supplements
- herbal medications
- getting toxoplasmosis from pet cats
There is a misguided belief that antidepressants cause problems when taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. “We often hear from moms who decided to go off much needed medications because they did not feel confident about the safety of the medications. This can have serious health implications such as an increased chance of miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight, or premature delivery,” said Romeo.
Research shows that medications for colds and allergies, like antihistamines or steroidal nasal sprays, have not increased the risks for birth defects. Decongestants (pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine), however, can raise blood pressure so pregnant women who take blood pressure medications should talk with their healthcare provider before using them. Most breastfed babies do not have any side effects when mom uses decongestants, antihistamines, or steroidal nasal sprays. Milk supply may decrease temporarily with antihistamine use.
Due to little regulation, most dietary supplements and herbal medications are not studied well enough to say with certainty that there is no increased risk for birth defects or chance for harm to a breastfeeding child.
“We get several calls from women worried about their cat and if it will affect their pregnancies. If the cat is outside and hunts for mice, let someone else clean the litterbox. If your cat is always in the house, there is little chance that you would get toxoplasmosis from your pet,” said Romeo.
The MotherToBaby Utah service is available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Staff will return after-hours calls the following business day. All calls are free and confidential. Call 1-800-822-2229, text 855-999-3525, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or to use the new chat feature, visit http://mothertobaby.utah.gov.
# # #