Antifungal treatment not tied to birth defects

By Shayna Brouker • Published: December 4th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Moms to be, take note: You may have heard that the antifungal medication fluconazole (flu-con-UH-zole) raises the risk of birth defects, but a new study from Denmark shows that may not be the case. O-B-G-Y-Ns are often hesitant to prescribe fluconazole, which treats yeast infections, to expectant mothers. But a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine looked at different birth defects, such as middle ear defects, cleft palate and cleft lip, limb abnormalities and heart defects. The researchers found that fluconazole was only linked with one, a heart defect called tetralogy of Fallot (Faaa-low).

The study looked at nearly 1 million women and their babies, divided into a group who had been treated with fluconazole and a control group who had not. The risk for having an infant with a birth defect was 0.6 percent in both groups. But doctors will likely still be hesitant to prescribe fluconazole as a treatment for yeast infections, with topical treatment preferred as a first line of defense. Eating more yogurt or probiotics to balance cultures is known to be effective as well. But if neither work, fluconazole is a safe option for moms and babies.

Another recent study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that moms-to-be who take certain painkillers like Oxycontin, Vicodin and Percocet early in pregnancy are twice as likely to give birth to babies with neural tube defects such as spina bifida, a condition in which the spinal column doesn’t close completely. But these defects are rare and researchers describe the increase as modest. So if you’re a mom-to-be whose doctor has OK’d the use of a painkiller, there’s no need for alarm, just an ounce of caution.