We want to believe that governments and doctors are there to keep us safe, especially when it comes to our children. When carrying a child most women try hard to do what is best to ensure a healthy child, so when something goes wrong it is devastating. Whilst most birth defects are caused by genetics some environmental factors play a role such as STIs or heavy drinking.
Other factors can unexpectedly cause birth defects, with mothers unaware of the risk. We read about these things occurring in our history books, but we don’t expect mistakes to happen anymore and we need to be able to trust our doctors. Despite this, as recently as 2006 pregnant women were being given the anti-depressant drug, Zoloft which has resulted in birth defects. This brought about the SSRI lawsuit and many families have been compensated, but no amount of money can be traded for a child’s health.
Here are some other examples of things that have been found to cause birth defects:
The drug, Thalidomide was made by Distillers and used in the late 50s and early 60s to treat insomnia, depression and morning sickness. After an increase in birth defects in one hospital, a correlation was discovered. But 10,000 babies had already been born worldwide with birth defects such as shorter arms and legs or without any limbs. Some of the children won damages in 1968 and the rest in 1973 in an out-of-court settlement. They are still paying towards the ‘Thalidomide Trust’ today which distributes payments to those affected.
In 2001 the British Medical Journal found that pregnant women who live near a landfill have a 1% increase risk of giving birth to a child with defects. This amounts to around 100 babies a year in the UK born with gut problems, low birth weight and conditions such as spina bifida.
Furthermore, if the landfill site contains hazardous waste then the risk goes up to 7%.
Valproate was a common drug used to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder. It has caused around 450 babies in France to be born with defects or stillborn since 2006. The drug, which has been used in some form since 1967, was known to have risks for several years and researchers warned of increased risk of autism. Despite this, it was still widely used until the European Union urged countries to stop prescribing it to women who were of childbearing age unless all other avenues had been found to be ineffective.
Pesticides have also been linked to birth defects. Living near to farmers’ fields who use pesticides could increase the risk of abnormalities by about 9%. Women who live near farms are advised to find out on which days farmers spray their fields and keep away from them at that time.
Nail beauticians who are regularly breathing in the fumes are at a higher risk of miscarriage and birth defects. This can be helped by a well-ventilated room and face masks.