New research has found that taking Cataflam during pregnancy may increase the risk of having a baby with a birth defect. Some birth defects include amniotic band syndrome, spina bifida, cleft lip, cleft palate, and two types of eye defects that cause blindness.
Cataflam is primarily a medication used to treat pain, tenderness, swelling, and stiffness caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It is the brand name of the medication “diclofenac.” Cataflam is one brand-name version of diclofenac. Other brand-name versions of diclofenac include: Cambia, Voltaren, Voltarol, and Zipsor. The arthritis medication Arthrotec also contains a combination of diclofenac and another medication.
Cataflam and diclofenac belong to a class of medications known as NSAIDs, which is short for “Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.” You probably have at least one NSAID in your medicine cabinet — this class of drugs are some of the most popular, widely-used medications in existence. Other NSAIDs include aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen. Most people use these medications for the treatment of mild to moderate pain. These medications are also useful to treat chronic inflammatory diseases, which is why many people with arthritis take an NSAID.
Unfortunately, new research has found a link between Cataflam and other NSAIDs and some serious, life-threatening birth defects.
Cataflam and Pregnancy
Doctors now recommend that pregnant women avoid taking Cataflam while pregnant, because this medication may slightly increase your risk of having a baby with a birth defect. It has also been linked to serious complications during labor and delivery. The following birth defects have been linked to Cataflam:
- Amniotic band syndrome: This rare but serious complication was 60% more likely to occur when the mother took an NSAID during pregnancy. It is not actually a birth defect, but rather a complication that occurs while the baby is developing in the womb. Parts of the amniotic sac separate, forming bands, which then become tangled around a developing baby. In severe cases, the bands can strangle the baby, and cause the amputation of parts of the infant’s body.
- Clubfoot: This birth defect occurs when a baby’s foot does not form properly. When the baby is born, its foot (or both feet) turn sharply inward at the ankle. This syndrome is called “clubfoot” because the baby’s foot resembles a club. Treatment may involve surgery to correct the tendons and ligaments. If the syndrome is not too severe, the foot may be gradually stretched into the correct position. If the condition is not corrected, it can lead to complications when the baby is beginning to learn how to walk.
- Anophthalmia / Microphthalmia: These are two eye defects that cause a baby to be born blind, and they are not correctible. In anophthalmia, the baby is born without any eyes. In microphthalmia, the baby is born with eyes that are too small to see. These two rare conditions were three times more likely to occur when the mother took an NSAID, such as Cataflam, during pregnancy.
- Cleft Lip / Cleft Palate: These two birth defects are some of the most common birth defects that occur in babies, and they vary widely in severity and treatment. A cleft lip occurs when the flesh of the upper lip does not fuse during fetal development, causing a separation. Sometimes it is just a small notch; other times it is a wide separation that extends into the nose. Cleft palate is a condition in which the roof of the baby’s mouth (involving the hard and/or soft palate) is separated. Cleft palate often causes problems with eating, sucking, and swallowing. Cleft lip and cleft palate were 30-80% more likely to occur when the baby’s mother took an NSAID during pregnancy.
- Spina Bifida: This is a serious, potentially life-threatening birth defect that is often associated with paralysis and other serious complications. Spina bifida was 60% more likely to occur to babies whose mothers took Cataflam or another NSAID during pregnancy. This birth defect occurs during fetal development, when the neural tube fails to close, and there is an abnormal opening at the base of the baby’s skull. The neural tube normally covers and protects the spinal cord. A baby with spina bifida often suffers irreparable damage to the spinal cord, which can cause severe paralysis.
What is the problem with Cataflam?
In December 2011, researchers announced the results of a study of the link between NSAIDs and birth defects. Though the majority of the birth defects the researchers studied were not linked to NSAIDs, a few severe birth defects were associated. The researchers looked at information from 15,000 women who had a baby with a birth defect, and they compared with information to 5,500 women who had a baby without a birth defect. The researchers found that the maternal use of NSAIDs, particularly during the first trimester, was linked to a few severe birth defects. They warned that this does not prove the painkillers are to blame, but it should should serve as a warning to pregnant women. They recommended that women consult their physician before taking any painkillers while pregnant, and they should probably avoid all NSAIDs until more studies are conducted.