Pregnant women need to exercise caution when it comes to the prescription drugs, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, herbal remedies and vitamin supplements they take when pregnant. While some medications may be necessary as a cold remedy or to address a chronic medical condition, other types of medication can be harmful to you and/or your baby.
If you are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, it is important you discuss your medical needs and health concerns with your doctor prior to taking any type of medication. Over the past 30 years there has been a 60 percent increase in the use of prescription drugs by pregnant women in their first trimester, according to Drugs.com. As there is a direct correlation between birth defects and the use of medications during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, it is important for pregnant women to educate themselves on the low risk medications to take during pregnancy.
Over-the-Counter and Prescription Meds
There are no prescription medications or OTC medicines which pregnant women can rely on 100 percent to be safe for themselves and their unborn child. Having said that, the following is a list of 10 low risk medications okay to take when pregnant (at the recommended dosage). But as always, consult a doctor before taking any medication while pregnant, including those listed below.
- Antacids: Antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids and Tums, are considered to be low risk medications a woman can take to help a woman alleviate heartburn during pregnancy.
- Simethicone: Gas-X, Mylanta Gas, Mylicon and Flatulex are all brand names for simethicone, which can be used by pregnant women to ease pain associated with gas, bloating or an upset stomach. Zantac has also been reported to be low risk in pregnancy.
- Tylenol: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a type of pain reliever capable of fever reduction, easing discomfort stemming from headaches, backaches, muscle aches and more. As long as it is taken at the proper dosage, and only for short periods of time, studies have shown acetaminophen to be safe during all stages of pregnancy.
- Delsym: Dextromethorphan, also commonly known as Delsym, is a cough suppressant considered to be relatively low risk during pregnancy. This type of medication should only be taken so long as the benefits to the mother are considered to outweigh the risk posed to the unborn child, and the woman’s doctor should be consulted prior to taking it. A safer alternative may be cough lozenges or warm water with honey and lemon.
- Decongestant or Nasal Saline spray: Pregnant women are not advised to take decongestants during pregnancy. If you have a cold, hay fever or stuffed up nose while pregnant, a decongestant spray or nasal saline solution is a relatively safe option, providing you do not continue use for more than three days in a row.
- Antihistamine: Pregnant women, who also suffer from allergies, can often seek relief from medications such as Alavert, Claritin, Chlor-Trimeton, Triaminic or Benadryl. Seek your doctor’s recommendation for the antihistamine most suited to your needs.
- Laxatives: It is not uncommon for a pregnant women to experience constipation, diarrhea or hemorrhoids at least one period during pregnancy. Metamucil, psyllium, Fiber-Lax, Citrucel, milk of magnesia, Preparation H, Tucks, along with certain types of Maalox are all currently considered to be low risk medications for use during pregnancy.
- Supplements: While most doctors do not advise pregnant women take OTC vitamin or dietary supplements during pregnancy, there are specific pre-natal vitamins that are important for your unborn child’s development: iron, calcium and folic acid. Ask your doctor for recommended dosages.
- Acne Medication: OTC acne medications applied directly to the skin are considered to be safe for use during pregnancy. This is due to the fact that these types of medications are applied to the skin and not ingested, so the effects on the unborn child should be minimal.
- Flu Vaccines: As pregnant women are often more susceptible to coming down with the flu, due to their compromised immune systems, a flu vaccine may be recommended. Inactivated vaccines can be given during pregnancy and are much lower risk than vaccines containing a live virus.
Pregnant and Ill? Check with Your Doctor Before Taking Any Medication.
There are certain types of over-the-counter medication, such as aspirin, oral decongestants, live virus vaccines, ibuprofen (and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), which should be avoided during pregnancy unless specifically prescribed by your doctor. Pregnant women should also verify any medication they plan to take does not contain alcohol.
Your safety and that of your unborn child are of the upmost importance. If you are pregnant and have become ill, check with your doctor or seek advice from a medical professional before taking any medication.
- How Common is Medication Use During Pregnancy? and Is Tylenol Safe?
- Chart: Over-the-Counter Medications During Pregnancy
- Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS): Fact Sheets – Medications