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Spermicides given green light.

Scientific studies have raised concern as to whether fetuses conceived in the presence of spermicides are more prone to birth defects (SN: 4/11/81, p. 229). The question entered the legal arena earlier this year when an Atlanta court awarded damages in the case of a baby, born despite spermicide use, with birth defects. Now James L. Mills, who recently completed a large study of birth defects, and Joe L. Simpson, a geneticist who has reviewed the published data, say it is time to lay these concerns to rest.

The initial association was no more than chance, said Mills, of the National Institutes of Health, and Simpson, of Northwestern University in Chicago, at a press conference held in Washington, D.C., last week in conjunction with the meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Following the initial positive studies came early reports showing no correlation (SN: 5/12/82, p. 326) -- and more recent studies, including Mills's, "have given rise to a clear consensus in the scientific community that there is no substantive increase in birth defects related to spermicide use," says Simpson.

Mills and his colleagues questioned 34,660 pregnant women about spermicide use and assessed the outcomes of the pregnancies; 2,282 of the women said they had used spermicides following their last menstrual period have conception. "There was no increase in major malformations in general or in any organ system in mothers who had used spermicides," reports Mills.

Says Simpson, "The frequency of birth defects is not generally appreciated to be as high as it is--2 to 3 percent of pregnancies result in a child with a major birth defect. If 100 pregnant women walk under a ladder, 2 to 3 will have a child with a birth defect. Cause and effect aren't easy to prove." A researcher on one of the studies showing a positive correlation, who asked not to be identified, says that if there is an effect, it is likely to be small. But, he adds, more data are needed to completely exonerate spermicides.
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Title Annotation:no correlation to birth defects
Author:Silberner, Joanne
Publication:Science News
Date:May 25, 1985
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