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Did you take Cataflam during pregnancy? New research suggests a link between taking Cataflam during pregnancy and several serious, life-threatening birth defects.

Cataflam Overview

Cataflam is the brand name of the medication diclofenac. Other brand-names of diclofenac include: Cambia, Voltaren, Voltarol, and Zipsor. Diclofenac is also found in Arthrotec, which is a combination drug prescribed for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Cataflam and diclofenac belong to a group of popular painkillers that includes aspirin, Aleve, Advil, naproxen, and many more. These are all called NSAIDs, or “Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs,” and you have probably taken one before. They are the most widely-used type of medication in the world, because they treat a wide variety of common ailments, including: mild to moderate pain, rheumatoid arthritis, muscle aches, headaches, fever reduction, symptoms of the common cold, and many more.

Unfortunately, new research has found that Cataflam and pregnancy may be a dangerous combination.

Cataflam and Pregnancy

Most healthcare providers recommend avoiding Cataflam during pregnancy, because it can cause serious problems for an unborn baby. It can also cause complications during labor and delivery. Recently, researchers have found that women who took NSAIDs, including Cataflam, during pregnancy were more likely to have a baby with the following serious birth defects:

  • Amniotic band syndrome: This rare birth defect was 60% more likely to occur when the mother took an NSAID or Cataflam during pregnancy. It occurs when the amniotic sac detach, and the developing baby becomes entangled. In severe cases, the baby can die from being strangled in the amniotic bands. In less severe cases, amniotic band syndrome can cause the amputation of fingers or limbs.
  • Clubfoot: This syndrome occurs when the baby’s foot is turned sharply inward, so it resembles a club. It may affect one foot or both feet, and is not caused by the position of the developing baby in the womb — it is caused by the tendons and ligaments in the foot being too short. Modern treatment usually involves gradually stretching the baby’s foot using bands or casts. Treatment may also involve surgery.
  • Anophthalmia / Microphthalmia: These are birth defects that cause blindness, and are incurable. Anophthalmia is a birth defect where the baby has no eyes. Microphthalmia is a birth defect where the baby has very small eyes. Anophthamia and microphthalmia are three times more likely to occur when mothers took an NSAID or Cataflam during pregnancy.
  • Cleft Lip, Cleft Palate: When mothers took Cataflam during pregnancy, these two oral birth defects were 30-80% more likely to occur. Oral clefts occur during fetal development — a cleft lip may be just a small notch in the upper lip, or a widely separated upper lip that goes into the nose. Cleft palate is when the roof of the mouth is separated. Oral clefts can cause serious problems for eating, sucking, and swallowing, but there are good treatment options.
  • Spina Bifida: The rate of Spina Bifida increased by 60% for babies born to mothers who took an NSAID or Cataflam during pregnancy. Spina Bifida is a neural tube defect in which there is an opening in the spine at the base of the skull, which exposes the spinal cord to the amniotic fluid in the womb. This causes nerve damage, which is permanent an untreatable. Paralysis is very common in babies with Spina Bifida.

What is the problem with Cataflam?

At the end of 2011, researchers announced the results of a study that found a link between NSAIDs and birth defects. The researchers used data from 15,000 women who had children with a birth defect. These women were interviewed and asked about their use of medications during pregnancy. This information was compared to data from 5,500 women who had children without any birth defects.

The researchers looked for data on more than 29 different defects, and concluded that most birth defects had no link to maternal use of NSAIDs or Cataflam during pregnancy. Some serious birth defects did have a link, however. The researchers concluded that pregnancy and Cataflam or other NSAIDs could be risky. There are very few studies that look at a link between NSAIDs and birth defects, so more studies are needed before a conclusive link can be determined.

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