The UK Teratology Information Service (http://www.uktis.org) is funded by Public Health England to provide a national service on all aspects of reproductive toxicity of drugs and chemicals in pregnancy and prior to pregnancy throughout the United Kingdom. NTIS was established as part of the NPIS (Newcastle Unit) in 1995.
Why is drug and chemical exposure during pregnancy important?
Since the thalidomide tragedy in the 1960s there has been increased public awareness of the risks that some medicines, when taken during pregnancy, may harm the developing baby (i.e. act as teratogens). However, most women still take medicines during pregnancy, in many instances, before they realise they are pregnant.
In a recent survey in the UK, about 35% of women were found to have taken medicines at least once during pregnancy, and 6% took medicines during the first 3 months, excluding iron and vitamin supplements.
Although the majority of babies are normal at birth, about 1 in 40 has a congenital malformation (‘birth defect’). In most cases, it is not known why these malformations occur. Therefore, if treatment is required during pregnancy, it is important that doctors are able to give accurate evidence based advice to women about the risks, if any, of the medicines prescribed or for chemical or occupational exposure.
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