Everything You Need to Know About Pregnancy-Safe Medications
Pregnancy is a time when your body is undergoing constant physical and hormonal changes, and while some women seem to sail through pregnancy, for many others it can be an uncomfortable time.
Some of the most common problems that women encounter during pregnancy are:
- Nausea and vomiting (i.e., morning sickness)
- Urinary tract infections
- Aches and pains (i.e., back pain)
Is It Safe to Take Medication During Pregnancy?
Under normal circumstances, you might be tempted to reach for the medicine cabinet, but being pregnant means that you need to be more careful about what medications you take.
While many medications are considered safe to take during pregnancy, knowing what to take and in what dosage can be confusing.
Firstly, it is important to talk to your physician, midwife or pharmacist before deciding to take any medication during pregnancy. This includes both prescribed drugs and over-counter-remedies.
You should also exercise caution with natural remedies such as herbal or homeopathic preparations and aromatherapy oils. Natural does not necessarily mean safe, and you should discuss your condition with a qualified professional before using any of these.
If you are already taking prescribed medications, it is vital that you do not stop taking them without speaking to your physician first. Stopping medication suddenly could put both you and your baby at risk.
If you are seeing your physician or a pharmacist about a new complaint, make sure they know that you are pregnant before they recommend any treatments.
What Medications Are Safe to Take During Pregnancy?
Generally speaking, it is better to avoid taking any medications during pregnancy unless they are strictly necessary. One exception is folic acid.
Folic acid is a vitamin which is crucial for the healthy development of your baby. It is recommended that women take 400mcg of folic acid daily if they are trying to conceive and throughout the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Another exception to the rule is antibiotics. Infections, especially urinary tract infections are common in pregnancy. Leaving them untreated could pose a serious threat, both to your health and that of your child.
Most antibiotics are safe to take during pregnancy without any harmful effects. Your physician will prescribe the drug which is most appropriate for you.
Indigestion Remedies and Laxatives
Digestive disorders such as nausea, vomiting, heartburn or constipation are often part and parcel of being pregnant. There are many different remedies available on prescription and over the counter that are considered safe.
Your physician or pharmacist can recommend the best one for you based on your symptoms and how many weeks pregnant you are.
For aches and pains, the safest option is acetaminophen. There is no evidence that this drug has any negative effects on your unborn child. However, it is important that you do not exceed the recommended dose.
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What Medications are Not Safe to Take During Pregnancy?
For most medications, there is little evidence for or against their safe use during pregnancy. You will need to talk with your physician or midwife to weigh up the possible benefits and risks before deciding on whether to take a particular drug or not.
However, there are some common over-the-counter remedies which should definitely be avoided during pregnancy as they carry a considerable risk of harm.
Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, diclofenac, and naproxen are commonly used to treat musculoskeletal aches and pains. However, they are not safe to use during pregnancy, especially after 30 weeks.
Taking NSAIDs during pregnancy can cause the blood vessel which supplies the fetus with oxygen and nutrients to close. This can lead to many problems including your baby’s lungs being unable to adapt to breathing air when it is born. They can also reduce the amount of amniotic fluid surrounding your baby in the womb, causing developmental problems.
Similarly, regular dose aspirin should be avoided during pregnancy. It is best to stick to acetaminophen if you are pregnant and need pain relief.
Low dose aspirin is sometimes given to women who are at higher risk of preeclampsia or miscarriage. Your physician will prescribe this if necessary.
Another class of over-the-counter medications you will want to avoid is decongestants. These work by narrowing the small blood vessels in the sinuses to dry up congestion. However, they also narrow the vessel which supplies blood to the placenta, depriving your baby of nutrients.
Decongestants are an ingredient in most over-the-counter cold and flu remedies. If you have nasal congestion during pregnancy, it is best to stick to safer methods such as steam inhalation to clear your sinuses.
Alcohol, Smoking and Recreational Drugs
It is well known that drinking alcohol, smoking or taking recreational drugs during pregnancy can be harmful to your child. They can cause premature birth, developmental problems and increase the risk of birth defects.
If you are pregnant and finding it hard to stop drinking, smoking or using drugs, ask your physician for support. They will be able to advise you on the safest ways to quit.
Taking Medication Safely During Pregnancy
Knowing which medications you can safely take while pregnant can be difficult. The examples in this article are just a few commonly used drugs and not an exhaustive list.
If you are in any doubt, speak to your physician, midwife or pharmacist for further advice. By doing this and exercising caution, you will be protecting both yourself, and the future health of your child.