Blanket advice is now given to women: No drugs of any description should be taken during the first three months of pregnancy unless on the specific instructions of the doctor. This includes everything, even simple aspirin. Drugs can have a very adverse effect on the developing infant at the time when the vital organs are being formed, which is during the first 12 weeks. Intending mothers must adhere to this advice to avoid problems later on.
However, there are many other things that can produce anomalies during pregnancy. It is well-known that rubella (German measles) can produce outstanding fetal disorders of development. Therefore, any pregnant woman contacting or contracting rubella must seek immediate professional advice.
Tests will show if she is safe or vulnerable. Today, legal termination of pregnancy is often recommended if the baby is obviously at risk.
Other viral infections in early pregnancy are possible producers of fetal problems. The mother-to-be should make every attempt to keep free from infections during the vital early weeks. Smoking in pregnancy is well-known to produce problems in the newborn.
Smoking should be given up entirely during pregnancy and preferably in the months following confinement. Best of all, give it up altogether.
Alcohol is also a severe cause of congenital abnormalities and should not be taken during pregnancy. The fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a potent cause of mental retardation, physical defects and premature death.
If abnormalities still occur and a child is born with some disability, much can now be offered in the expert centers in the major capital cities. The family doctor is a valuable guide in these cases.