In the fifth-season premiere of Call the Midwife , which aired on Sunday night in the U. Depending on in what stage of pregnancy thalidomide was ingested, the drug could also cause malformations of the inner and outer ear and ocular abnormalities.
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Although the scene may sound severe on the page, Call the Midwife depicts the birth and the moments after with unflinching honesty and heartbreaking tenderness—with the midwives doing their best in the moment to protect both mother and baby following an arduous labor. According to studies cited by The Oxford Journal , approximately 10, children were born with phocomelia before the ban of thalidomide in most countries.
She also has shortened legs with two small feet carrying a total of 13 toes. They described them as cold and unloving. But even outside the institutions, many thalidomide survivors have struggled without the support which Rosie enjoyed.
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Crucially they refused to hide their daughter. Mine were tears of anger but hers were tears of heartbreak. She felt bad because I was being hurt. But the family also knew that Rosie was lucky to be alive. As well as having their limbs severely affected, many had problems with malformed internal organs, eyesight, their hearing and severe brain damage.
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Rosie is one of the remaining British survivors. Though she faced discrimination when she applied for work - out of letters she submitted for various jobs, she got just four interviews - Rosie became a civil servant. Now she runs her own business as an artist, painting using just her mouth and a paintbrush, inspirational speaking and media work.
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After years of campaigning for the rights of disabled people, she was awarded on OBE, presented last year by the Queen. In she became Rosie Moriarty-Simmonds after marrying Stephen Simmonds, a friend from childhood who was born without most of his legs as a result of his mother taking thalidomide. And making sure we learn this warning from history is crucial as thalidomide is now being used - under very strict regulations - to treat certain illnesses, including incurable blood cancer multiple myeloma.
But she says spreading understanding of thalidomide through a TV show watched by millions is key. Her mother sadly passed away in Miltown quickly became iconic in American life. Within months, it was the best-selling drug in the country and by , one-third of all new prescriptions were for Miltown or Equanil.
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At the time, pregnant women were medicated with both sedatives and stimulants. A study of first-time mothers at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York reveals that all 50 research participants were on a mix of sedatives, hypnotics and tranquilizers while giving birth. Researchers reported sedatives were suitable for use in pregnancy to treat sleeplessness, morning sickness, and severe nausea and vomiting. Medical experts began to interrogate this enthusiastic prescribing and patient demand for antibiotics, stimulants and depressants from the late s. More sustained criticism of excessive tranquilizer and sedative followed in the s, when evidence emerged that users of meprobamate and other minor tranquilizers suffered withdrawal symptoms in the form of anxiety, irritability, insomnia, headaches, and depression when they stopped taking the pills.
Laboratory and animal test results were first published in and showed the drug had a low toxicity. Standard toxicity tests at the time involved dosing mice until half of the population died.
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For thalidomide, no toxic effects were found at even 5, milligrams per kilogram of body weight in mice. Others tests in mice and rats, including cardiac, blood pressure, respiratory, urine secretion, temperature, and basal metabolic rate showed no harmful affects. From , scientists tested the drug on healthy adults, patients complaining of anxiety or sleeplessness, nursing mothers, patients with mental illnesses, and children. However, no physician in Germany or elsewhere running clinical trials of the drug appears to have observed or drawn a link to birth deformities.
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Contergan was rapidly taken up by consumers. Post-war Germany was enjoying rapid economic growth, but also rising stress associated with a transformed economy and cold-war divisions of the country. Taking thalidomide to treat nausea during pregnancy appears to have spread among physicians and pregnant women in West Germany during the first half of Regional variation in the number of children born with deformities suggests the practice was not universal across the country. In the United Kingdom, Distillers Ltd. Other companies licensed and sold the drug worldwide in the late s under dozens of different brand names.
Its review was assigned to Frances Kelsey, a new employee who pressed the company for additional data. However, Kelsey delayed approval until the adverse reactions became widely known. The separation between specialists in psychiatry and pediatrics — and the lag time between exposure to thalidomide in the first trimester of pregnancy and impacts on a child being visible only after birth — contributed to the delays in identifying the crisis.
In early October , almost three years after thalidomide came on the German market, neurologists Ralf Voss and Horst Frenkel saw several patients who complained of numbness in their hands and feet, and pain from nerve inflammation. They reported on cases of peripheral neuritis nerve inflammation associated with thalidomide at a conference of the German Society for Neurology.