During pregnancy, it’s important to be careful about which medications you take. Some medicines can affect the development of your growing baby. This blog post covers what you need to know about taking prescription and over-the-counter medication while pregnant.
What Medicines Should I Avoid?
Certain common medications like ibuprofen are typically not recommended during pregnancy, especially after 20 weeks. Ibuprofen can impact the baby’s circulation and kidneys. Paracetamol is a safer option for pain relief. Always check with your doctor or midwife before taking ibuprofen when pregnant.
High dose aspirin is also not advised for pain relief when pregnant. It may affect the baby’s circulation if taken for long periods after 30 weeks. Low dose aspirin (75-150mg daily) may be prescribed to help prevent pre-eclampsia and is considered safe throughout pregnancy.
Isotretinoin and co-cyprindiol, used for acne treatment, should be avoided as they are not safe during pregnancy. Speak to your GP about alternative acne treatments if needed.
Sodium valproate, used for epilepsy and bipolar disorder, is not recommended as it can cause developmental issues and birth defects. Do not stop taking this suddenly – speak to your doctor about changing medication if pregnant or planning pregnancy.
Anticoagulant medications like warfarin also carry risks and should be reviewed with your doctor if pregnant.
What About Mental Health Medications?
If you take anti-depressants or other mental health medications, talk to your doctor as soon as possible when planning pregnancy or if you become pregnant. Do not stop medications without medical advice.
Herbal remedies like St John’s Wort should be avoided as the safety in pregnancy is unclear.
When Should I Speak to My Doctor?
Discuss any prescription medications you take with your doctor when planning pregnancy or as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Some medications need to be stopped, adjusted or switched for safety reasons. Do not make changes without consulting your healthcare provider first.
What Medicines Are Considered Safe?
There are a number of over-the-counter medications generally considered safe for short-term use in pregnancy:
- Paracetamol – for headaches, backaches and other pain. Stick to recommended doses.
- Loratadine – an antihistamine sometimes used for hay fever and allergies.
- Laxatives like lactulose and Fybogel – for constipation.
- Antacids like Rennie – for heartburn and indigestion. Avoid sodium bicarbonate/magnesium trisilicate.
- Gaviscon – to treat acid reflux.
- Cough syrups with dextromethorphan or simple linctus.
Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication when pregnant. Be sure to read packaging and do not exceed stated doses. Report any new prescribed medications to your midwife or doctor.
Some pregnant women consider using alternative remedies like herbal medicines or supplements. It’s important to talk to your doctor before taking these, as some may not be safe during pregnancy. For example, the herbal remedy blue cohosh has been associated with complications. Acupuncture, massage therapy or yoga may be safer complementary approaches to discuss with your provider.
Common Pregnancy Ailments and Relief Options
Here are some advice for treating common pregnancy discomforts without medication:
Heartburn: Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Avoid spicy or acidic foods. Drink fluids between meals, not with meals. Sleep propped up with pillows. Wear loose clothing.
Headaches: Use a cold compress. Try relaxation techniques. Drink more water. Limit caffeine. Get fresh air and light exercise if possible.
Back pain: Use heat pads or warm baths. Try prenatal massage or yoga. Wear supportive footwear. Maintain good posture.
Leg cramps: Stretch legs before bedtime. Stay active with walking. Try heat pads or magnesium supplements (check with doctor first).
Nasal congestion: Use saline spray or nasal strips. Try a vaporizer. Drink lots of fluids. Use pillows to elevate your head when sleeping.
Constipation: Increase fiber and water intake. Exercise regularly. Do not wait when feeling urge to have a bowel movement.
Discuss persistent or severe symptoms with your doctor. Some over-the-counter medications may be recommended for temporary relief.
When to Seek Emergency Care
Contact your doctor immediately or seek emergency care if you experience:
- Severe headaches or vision changes
- Vaginal bleeding
- Abdominal pain
- Signs of preterm labour like contractions, pelvic pressure, or fluid leakage
- High fever
- Decreased fetal movement
- Swelling in hands or face
- Chest pain or trouble breathing
Do not hesitate to call your provider with any concerns during pregnancy. It’s always better to be safe. Monitoring your health protects you and your baby.