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Am J Med Genet A. 2014 Sep;164A(9):2212-6. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.a.36625. Epub 2014 Jun 4.

Maternal exposure to methotrexate and birth defects: a population-based study.

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  • 1National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.


Methotrexate is an anti-folate medication that is associated with increased risk of multiple birth defects. Using data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, a case-control study of major birth defects in the United States, we examined mothers exposed to methotrexate. The study population included mothers of live-born infants without major birth defects (controls) and mothers of fetuses or infants with a major birth defect (cases), with expected dates of delivery between October 1997 and December 2009. Mothers of cases and controls were asked detailed questions concerning pregnancy history, demographic information, and exposures in a telephone interview. Approximately 0.06% (n = 16/27,623) of case and 0.04% (n = 4/10,113) of control mothers reported exposure to methotrexate between 3 months prior to conception through the end of pregnancy. Of the 16 case infants, 11 (68.8%) had a congenital heart defect (CHD). The observed CHDs included atrial septal defects, tetralogy of Fallot, valvar pulmonary stenosis, ventricular septal defects (VSDs), and total anomalous pulmonary venous return. One case infant had microtia in addition to a VSD and another had VACTER association. Exposed cases without a CHD had one of the following birth defects: cleft palate, hypospadias, congenital diaphragmatic hernia, or craniosynostosis. Based on a limited number of methotrexate-exposed mothers, our findings support recent case reports suggesting an association between early pregnancy exposure to methotrexate and CHDs. Because of the rarity of maternal periconceptional exposure to methotrexate, long-term, population-based case-control studies are needed to confirm these findings and better evaluate the association between methotrexate and birth defects.

© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


birth defects; congenital heart defects; methotrexate

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