Are Medicines Safe in Pregnancy?
I’m pregnant and I have a pre-existing condition, like epilepsy or diabetes. Are my medications safe to take during my pregnancy?
The likelihood is, if you have a pre-existing condition during pregnancy, you’ll have discussed this with your doctor before becoming pregnant, to weigh up the risks. If your pregnancy is unplanned, consult your doctor now, to talk through your options. He/she will consider the risks of continuing to take medication and balance them with the risks of an untreated condition.
How will I know if any medication I take is safe?
Research has been carried out on some medications – eg penicillin – to determine their safety, but for the majority, this hasn’t been possible – medications can’t be tested on pregnant women, after all. So, in general doctors will not prescribe any medication for pregnant women unless they are certain that the benefits outweigh any potential risks.
Your baby is most vulnerable during the first three months of pregnancy as this trimester is a period of very rapid development for the fetus. Unless you have a pre-existing condition, in which case you’ll be in regular contact with your doctor, try not to take medication at this time.
I’m pregnant and I have a headache…
Many headaches in pregnancy are due to the rush of pregnancy hormones, particularly in the first trimester and should fade as your pregnancy progresses. If you find you need to take a painkiller, Paracetamol is generally considered to be the safest in pregnancy, though very regular use has been linked to wheezing in the children after birth. Don’t take aspirin though – it’s not safe in pregnancy.
I’m pregnant and I have a migraine…
If you suffer from regular migraines, talk to your doctor, as some migraine medication is suitable for pregnant women. Have you tried acupuncture? Many women have found this to be very effective in pregnancy.
I’m pregnant and I have acne/other skin problems…
It’s best that you stop taking any acne/skin treatment medications before becoming pregnant – your doctor will advise you here. Roaccutane/accutane (Isotretinoin) is not safe to take in pregnancy.
I’m pregnant and I have an infection…
Penicillin is generally considered safe to treat infections in pregnancy, but your doctor will advise you here and prescribe accordingly. Some antibiotics can cause problems if taken in pregnancy, for example, tetracyclines, which can cause tooth discolouration and slow down bone growth. Other antibiotics can damage the inner ear causing deafness in the fetus.
I’m pregnant and I’m on antidepressants…
You and your healthcare provider will need to weigh the risks of treating your depression during pregnancy with antidepressants versus the risks of not treating you, at a time when you might be more vulnerable than usual. It’s important to weigh these risks carefully. Certain tricyclics and SSRIs are considered safer than others or other types of medication, so discuss your concerns with your doctor.
I’m pregnant and I have heartburn/a cold/a cough.
Talk to your pharmacist, who’ll advise you which over-the-counter antacids or cough mixtures are considered suitable for use in pregnancy. If you have persistent heartburn, you might find eating small, regular meals helpful. If you have a cold, not much helps, as you’ll probably know! Drink lots of fluids and if you’re very congested, discuss with your doctor.
I’ve heard that natural remedies are safe to use during pregnancy. Is that right?
It depends. Again,often there isn’t enough research to know for sure. ‘Natural’ can mean a lot of things, too – from resting, eating regularly and drinking lots of fluid for headaches, to consulting an acupuncturist! The important is to consult properly licensed practitioners in any field, and to always talk to your doctor first.
‘Natural’ doesn’t always mean safe and you should avoid the following herbal remedies: Arbor vitae, Beth root, Black cohosh, Blue cohosh, Cascara, Chaste tree berry, Chinese angelica (Dong Quai), Cinchona, Cotton root bark, Feverfew, Ginseng, Golden seal, Juniper, Kava kava, Licorice, Meadow saffron, Pennyroyal, Poke root, Rue, Sage, St. John’s wort, Senna, Tansy, White peony, Wormwood, Yarrow, Yellow dock, vitamin A (large doses can cause birth defects). aromatherapy essential oils: calamus, mugwort, pennyroyal, sage, wintergreen, basil, hyssop, myrrh, marjoram, and thyme.
Always talk to your doctor before taking any medication, herbal preparations, vitamins or food supplements in pregnancy.