Not all medications are off-limits during pregnancy. But which ones are OK, and which ones should you consult a doctor about?
Expectant mothers are bombarded with information during their pregnancy—from being advised to limit caffeine and avoid alcohol to exactly what kind of exercise they should be doing and how much sleep they need. But what about the daily supplements you take, the over-the-counter medications you reach for when you have a headache, or the prescriptions you use to manage your chronic health conditions? We set out the facts.
Herbs and supplements are relatively untested and should be avoided. It is important to keep taking your prenatal vitamin, which contains folic acid, iron, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals.
Each woman’s needs are different, and your doctor will be able to help you determine which medications are appropriate for you. Some antidepressants, for example, appear to be safe to use during pregnancy, while others should be avoided. Talk to your doctor about the possible risks of treating or not treating your specific conditions.
For aches, pains, and fevers:If you usually reach for Motrin, aspirin, or Aleve, you’ll need to make some changes. These should all be avoided during pregnancy. Try Tylenol instead. Acetaminophen, Tylenol’s active ingredient, is approved for short-term use by pregnant women.
For allergies:Not all antihistamines are safe to use during pregnancy. Benadryl is commonly prescribed, but it may cause drowsiness. Claritin and Zyrtec are two nondrowsy medications that are safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. If your allergies present as a rash, try a soothing oatmeal bath, which can alleviate itchiness. If the rash persists, reach for a skin cream like Caladryl or Cortaid, which can be used in small doses.
For stomach issues: If you’re suffering from morning sickness, try a supplemental B6 vitamin, which can ease nausea. Sour candies, peppermints, or fresh ginger—which can be made into a tea—can provide relief too.
To fight constipation, reach for fiber laxatives like Metamucil or add fiber-rich fruits and vegetables to your diet. You’ll also want to drink plenty of water.
If heartburn becomes a problem, drink fewer carbonated beverages—that includes sparkling water—and avoid spicy or greasy foods. Antacids that contain calcium carbonates (like Tums or Rolaids), can be used to ease the pain of heartburn. But be sure to avoid antacids made from sodium bicarbonate.
Check with your doctor before taking antidiarrheals. Many doctors will allow you to take Kaopectate or Imodium (after the first trimester), but Pepto-Bismol should be avoided.
For coughs, colds, and flus: If you catch a cold or get the flu, you’ll have to manage the symptoms as best you can without the use of most over-the-counter drugs. Drink plenty of fluids to keep dehydration at bay, and get as much rest as possible. Cough drops are generally considered safe, but many liquid cough syrups are not, since they contain alcohol.
For bacterial infections: Bacterial infections can be treated with approved antibiotics, but you’ll need to pay careful attention to your doctor’s instructions. Make sure you get a new prescription from your doctor, as some antibiotics have been linked to an increased risk of miscarriages. Don’t skip doses or stop taking a medication because you’re starting to feel better; finish the prescribed amount.