I’m Pregnant. Is It Safe to Take Medicine?

Many pregnant moms already know the basics of keeping their baby healthy: avoid alcohol consumption, smoking and drug use, stay active, and make healthy food choices when you are “eating for two."

But it might surprise you to know that another key part of a healthy pregnancy is to be careful about taking medicine. Even over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as those used to treat coughs, colds, diarrhea and nausea, can pose risks to your unborn child.

In fact, it is essential to ask your doctor questions about any medication you’re considering taking. Some are known to be dangerous — and taking them while pregnant can result in premature births, birth defects or infant loss. Only a small percentage of medicines — fewer than 10 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) — have been proven to be safe for pregnant women to take during pregnancy.  

Even over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as those used to treat coughs, colds, diarrhea and nausea, can pose risks to your unborn child.

Safe OTC Medications to Take During Pregnancy

Pregnant Safe to Take Medication small

These two medications should be safe for you and your baby:

  • Acetaminophen. For short-term pain relief, acetaminophen (Tylenol®) is considered by most doctors to be safe to take while pregnant.
  • Prenatal vitamins. This is one pill you should definitely be taking during pregnancy. However, it is essential to get vitamins that are specifically designed for pregnant women — typical vitamins might have too much or too little of the nutrients you and your baby need.

Medications to Avoid During Pregnancy

Some medicines are known to be dangerous to take during pregnancy, and should always be avoided, such as:

  • Isotretinoin (Accutane®), when taken during pregnancy, can cause serious birth defects or poor pregnancy outcomes.
  • NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Examples of NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) and naproxen (Aleve®). Avoid taking these drugs, especially during the third trimester, because they can cause heart defects in your baby.

Top 3 Tips for Successful Medication Use During Pregnancy

Ask your doctor about the risks/benefits of taking a certain medication. Sometimes medication is necessary to treat a health condition. In some cases, it can be more dangerous to avoid taking a certain medication. For example, if a pregnant mother has a urinary tract infection (UTI), antibiotics are necessary to cure the UTI before it turns into a kidney infection. Kidney infections can cause preterm labor and low birth weight.

Be especially cautious in the first trimester. Avoid taking OTC medicines during your first trimester (first 12 to 13 weeks of pregnancy) because that’s when the risk to your baby is highest. 

Make a pre-pregnancy medication plan with your doctor. If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant, you should talk to your doctor about any prescription or OTC medicines that you are currently taking.

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