"Thalidomide" Babies

Jill Sosa

What Is Thalidomide?

Thalidomide is a sedative that used to be prescribed to treat anxiety, tension, and insomnia. The drug was formerly used as a mild sleeping pill safe even for pregnant women. It was often used to treat morning sickness in pregnant women. This ended up causing problems. Today, it is prescribed as a treatment to many various skin diseases.


In a post-war era when sleeplessness was prevalent, thalidomide was marketed to a world hooked on tranquilizers and sleeping pills. At the time, one out of seven Americans took them regularly. Also, thalidomide was a widely used drug in the late 1950s and early 1960s for the treatment of nausea in pregnant women. It became apparent in the 1960s that thalidomide treatment resulted in severe birth defects in thousands of children. Many children in the 1960’s were born with phocomelia as a side effect of the the drug thalidomide, resulting in the shortening or absence of limbs. Thalidomide caused birth defects across more than 46 nations and affected over 10,000 babies.


This mutation is not hereditary because it is caused by the drug thalidomide.


A case of thalidomide syndrom can be diagnosed bu ultrasound in the 17th well of pregnancy. When the fetus is exposed to the drug there are obvious results.
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These babies were born with missing or abnormal limbs, feet or hands. Other defects included abnormal or absent ears, heart and kidney problems, cleft palate, spinal cord defects and digestive system disorders. The most common injury is malformations or lack of arms and/or legs, but it can also be hearing impairment, deafness, blindness and internal injuries of the heart, kidneys, uterus etc. There are no symptoms noticeable to the mother, but symptoms of the baby can be as terrible as death. No-one knows how many miscarriages the drug caused, but it's estimated that, in Germany alone, 10,000 babies were born affected by Thalidomide.


There is not much treatment you can give to a thalidomide baby. Surgeries are possible, but will not totally fix the mutations. Also, prostetics can be an option for many people who grow up needing them.
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