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Health Library : Medical Genetics


Examples of Non-Teratogenic Agents

A non-teratogenic agent is one which does not cause birth defects.

What are some examples of non-teratogenic agents?

  • Spermicides. Spermicides are agents which impair the ability of sperm to fertilize an egg. This means that spermicides never even reach the developing fetus, since their job is to prevent pregnancy in the first place. Several studies show no association with the use of spermicides and an increased chance for birth defects.
  • Acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in some pain relievers. Thousands of women have taken acetaminophen-containing pain relievers during pregnancy, and there has been no association with an increased chance for birth defects, particularly when used at or below the recommended dosage.
  • Prenatal vitamins. Prenatal vitamins are prescribed to pregnant women to supplement their diets to meet the growing nutritional needs of pregnancy. The amount contained in a prenatal vitamin is calculated to specifically address some of the biological changes that occur when a woman is pregnant, such as increased blood volume. When used at the recommended dosage, prenatal vitamins do not increase the risk for birth defects.

    It is important to know that taking extra vitamins, minerals, or herbal supplements (in addition to a prenatal vitamin) during pregnancy can be dangerous to the developing fetus. This is because the extra vitamins, minerals, and/or herbal supplements can add up to a toxic effect for the pregnancy, which may be teratogenic. Be sure to check with your physician before taking any over-the-counter vitamins, minerals, or herbal supplements while pregnant.
  • Microwave ovens. There are two types of radiation: ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. X-rays are an example of ionizing radiation, while ultraviolet rays (sunlight) and microwaves are examples of non-ionizing radiation. Non-ionizing radiation is not teratogenic. Just as the mother being outside in the sunlight during pregnancy does not interfere with the development of the fetus, microwaving food while pregnant is not known to increase the risk for birth defects or health problems.

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