The Placenta and the Pain Medication

Placentas are often thought of as protective barriers for the developing fetus, and in many ways they are. They do prohibit the passage of some very large molecules, and they do readily allow the passage of antibodies that significantly protect a developing fetus against many infections the mother is already protected against. However, in many ways, it's ability to pump nutrients readily to the fetus makes the placenta a less than protective barrier than some would think. Virtually all drugs and virtually all the metabolic byproducts of the drugs we take readily cross the placenta. Most drugs are designed to be fat soluable, and low molecular weight, characteristics that make them easily available in our blood stream to treat diseases effectively. But these same properties make them pour unchecked over the placental blood barrier to the developing fetus. The most risk is before a woman even realizes she's pregnant since over half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Perinatology experts from the University of New Mexico have specifically reported on the fact that women of child bearing age should be warned of the potential danger of medications. Drs Rayburn and Brennan have shown that pain medication use has been associated with a number of important birth defects and that codeine and hydrocodone use were the two medications most associated with the conditions. So I suggest that it works both ways: if you are taking medications: watch your contraception, and if you are not contracepting: watch your medicaitons!


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