The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the anti-fungal drug Fluconazole can cause birth defects when taken in large doses during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Fluconazole, which also goes by the brand name Diflucan, is often given to chemotherapy patients and those preparing to undergo bone marrow transplants to combat fungi that sometimes plague patients once their immune systems are compromised by other medicines.
The drug is also sometimes used to combat meningitis as well as thrush and vaginal yeast infections, among other things.
According to the FDA, birth defects are less likely to occur when the drug is given in a single small dose of 150 mg or less. This is the typical dose for minor infections, such as thrush or vaginal yeast infections, according to the National Institute for Health (NIH).
But when given over a longer period of time at higher doses of 400-800 mg per day, the drug can cause problems for a developing fetus. Larger doses are sometimes given for meningitis and certain systemic fungal infections, according to NIH.
The risks associated with prolonged use of the potentially dangerous drug during the first trimester of pregnancy include bone abnormalities, cleft palate, and congenital heart disease.
Women who are pregnant should make sure to tell their prescribers about the pregnancy before taking this drug. Anyone who took large doses of fluconazole during the first trimester of pregnancy and whose baby was born with bone, palate, or heart disorders should seek professional advice about whether the drug may have caused the child’s birth defect.