The association between maternal use of spermicides, condoms, intra-uterine devices or progesterone and major structural birth defects

Michael Shayne Gallaway, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Birth defects occur in 1 of every 33 babies born in the United States, and are the leading cause of infant death. Mothers using contraceptives that become pregnant may continue to use their contraceptives after their first missed menstrual period, thus exposing their baby in utero to the contraceptive product. Progesterone is also sometimes prescribed during the first trimester of pregnancy to mothers with a history of miscarriages or infertility problems. To ensure the safety of these products, it is important to investigate whether there is an increased occurrence of babies born with birth defects to mothers using various contraceptive methods or progesterone in early pregnancy. Using data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS), an ongoing multi-state, population based case-control study, this study assessed maternal exposures to IUDs, spermicides, condoms and progesterone in early pregnancy. Progesterone used for threatened miscarriage during the first three months of pregnancy was associated with an increased occurrence of hypoplastic left heart (adjusted odds ratios (OR) 2.24, 95% CI 1.13-4.21), perimembranous ventricular septal defects (OR 1.64, 95% CI 1.10-2.41), septal associations (OR 2.52, 95% CI 1.45-4.24), esophageal atresia (OR 1.82, 95% CI 1.04-3.08), and hypospadias (OR 2.12, 95% CI 1.41-3.18). Mothers using progesterone for injectable contraception had increased (OR > 2.5), but insignificant odds ratios for anencephaly, septal associations, small intestinal atresias and omphalocel. Progesterone used for fertility was not associated with an increased occurrence of any birth defects examined. Mothers using progesterone for fertility assistance and threatened miscarriage were very similar with respect to their demographics and pregnancy history. They also both reported similar types of progesterone. Thus, if progesterone was a causal risk factor for birth defects we would have expected to observe similar increases in risk among mothers using progesterone for both indications. Because we predominantly observed increased associations among mothers using progesterone for threatened miscarriage but not fertility assistance, it is possible the increased associations we observed were confounded by indication (i.e. progesterone was administered for vaginal bleeding which occurred as a sequelae to the formation of a congenital anomaly. No significant increased associations were observed between maternal spermicide use during pregnancy and 26 of 27 types of structural malformations. While multiple statistical tests were performed we observed first trimester maternal spermicide use to be associated with a significant increased occurrence of perimembranous ventricular septal defects (OR 2.21, 95% CI 1.16-4.21). A decreased occurrence (OR < 1.0) was observed for several categories of birth defects among mothers who conceived in the first cycle after discontinuing the use of spermicides (22 of 28) or male condoms (23 of 33). Overall the percent of IUD use was similar between mothers of controls and mothers of all cases in aggregate (crude OR 1.05, 95% CI 0.61-1.84). Power was limited to detect significant associations between IUD use and birth defects, however mothers using an IUD in the month immediately prior to conception or during pregnancy were not associated with an increase of birth defects. Limb defects and amniotic band sequence previously reported to be associated with IUD use during pregnancy were not found to occur among any mothers reporting the use of an IUD during pregnancy.

Subject Area

Obstetrics|Public health|Epidemiology

Recommended Citation

Gallaway, Michael Shayne, "The association between maternal use of spermicides, condoms, intra-uterine devices or progesterone and major structural birth defects" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3330698.