Thalidomide embryopathy

Last revised by Karen Machang'a on 26 Sep 2023

Thalidomide embryopathy refers to a syndrome resulting from in utero exposure to thalidomide, and is characterized by multiple fetal anomalies. Fetal exposure to thalidomide occurred primarily from 1957 to 1961, when it was used as a treatment for nausea in pregnant women. 

Exposure to thalidomide in the first trimester carries a 10-50% risk of embryopathy. Over 10,000 children with severe birth defects due to thalidomide exposure were born between 1957 and 1961 worldwide. 

Thalidomide exposure notably affects limb development, but can affect a wide range of systems. These include:

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Cases and figures

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