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:
- limb abnormalities
- facial abnormalities
- congenital cardiac anomalies
- Roberts syndrome (pseudothalidomide syndrome)