The focus this year during January, National Birth Defects Prevention Month, is on the judicious use of medicines before, during and after pregnancy.
That goes for prescription and over-the counter drugs, as well as herbal remedies and dietary supplements.
Perhaps two-thirds of women use some kind of medication during pregnancy, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga. Yet many of the effects of these drugs are poorly understood.
Pregnant women are often excluded from drug trials because of concerns for their unborn babies. As a result, we often know little about how drugs will affect fetuses.
Birth defects affect about 3 percent of babies born in the United States and cause more than 20 percent of infant deaths, according to the CDC.