The story of Mareena Silva, a 19 year old pregnant woman who was mistakenly given a medication that could have caused a miscarriage is a precautionary tale of why it’s so important to be vigilant during pregnancy.

Silva was prescribed an antibiotic at six weeks gestation. Although the name of the antibiotic was not given, she ultimately received Methotextrate, an anticancer drug that is sometimes used to treat ectopic or tubal pregnancies and could have caused a spontaneous abortion. Silva unknowingly took one pill before realizing that the pharmacy had made an error. Of course, she is now concerned that her unborn child might be adversely affected as a result of the error. However there’s a deeper story regarding Silva. Her physician prescribed an antibiotic at a critical time of the first trimester called organogenesis which occurs between 6 to 10 weeks gestation. During organogenesis the brain and central nervous system of the baby develop. This is an extremely important time of fetal development and most physicians use a hands off approach regarding prescribing medicine unless the patient is critically ill and compromised. As a patient safety measure, here are some suggestions to avoid incurring a similar or repeat episode of Silva’s near-fiasco:

  1. If you are given a medication during the first trimester, ask your healthcare provider if you can wait until after your 10th week to take it.
  2. When receiving a prescription, look up the generic name of the medication as well as the trade name so that you will familiar with both names in order to detect potential errors.
  3. Make certain that everyone knows you’re pregnant. If you’ve missed your period but haven’t had an official pregnancy test, please request it.
  4. When picking up medicines from the pharmacy, confirm the name of the medication, including the correct spelling, the strength, the dose of the medicine and number of times it should be taken in a day.
  5. Ask your healthcare provider about the category of the medicine and potential side effects. A category “A” and “B” are safe during pregnancy but again, it should be deferred if possible until the second trimester.

Never take medication during pregnancy without knowing the risks as well as the benefits.  If the risk outweighs the benefit, buyers beware.

Linda Burke-Galloway, MD, MS, FACOG, is the author of The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy (Red Flags Publishing). Her book is available on and other bookstores. For author requests, please contact Ms. Zanade, L. Mann of Online and Off Marketing and PR Agency, 347-968-8067. All Rights Reserved