In the US, 9 out of 10 women take medication during pregnancy, while 7 in 10 report taking at least one prescription medicine. Despite increased skepticism around the topic, this figure has actually risen over the last 30 years. This is because many women need to take medication during pregnancy to control their health conditions, and stopping could actually cause more harm to the baby.

However, there are certain drugs that can increase the risk of birth defects, prematurity and even pregnancy loss. For this reason, you should always consult a medical professional before taking anything new, be it over-the-counter or prescribed medicine. The same is true if you are considering coming off medication that was prescribed prior to conceiving.

Below, we discuss the impact that a selection of medicines can have on you and your baby. The following guide should act as a learning resource and in no way replaces the advice of your healthcare provider.

pregnant lady reading medication leaflet

What medication is considered ‘safe’ during pregnancy?

Acetaminophen (also known as paracetamol or Tylenol) is a common over-the-counter medicine. It is generally recommended by physicians to treat low-level fever and pain during pregnancy. While there are no confirmed risks of pregnancy complications, some studies found a possible correlation between acetaminophen use during pregnancy and asthma.

If you suffer from allergies, some over-the-counter medications like loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec and Alleroff) are considered safe while pregnant and breastfeeding. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may prefer that you avoid medication, instead suggesting allergy-proofing your home or using nasal sprays. But if your symptoms affect your sleep, it may be better to try one of the suggestions above.

On the subject of lack of sleep, pregnancy insomnia exists and could lead to gestational diabetes, stress and depression if left untreated. For this reason, some sleep aids are considered safe to use during pregnancy. Sominex and Nytol are both over-the-counter medicines and, as long as your doctor believes you are suitable to take them, could relieve your insomnia.

What medication should be avoided during pregnancy?

Advil (or its main ingredient, ibuprofen) is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. But while you may feel bloated during pregnancy, ibuprofen is not the best choice to address the discomfort. There is some research that suggests taking it at any time during the pregnancy increases birth defects. Taking the medicine beyond 30 weeks could cause the premature closing of a baby’s ductus arteriosus – a blood vessel that is vital to your baby’s development.

Again, if you are bloated, it is best to avoid the drugs you know. Pepto-Bismol, like ibuprofen, is not considered wholly safe when it comes to pregnancy. Research suggests that taking the drug in the second and third trimesters of your pregnancy raises your risk of bleeding problems as you get closer to delivery.

Opioids such as codeine, morphine or oxycodone should also be avoided. These are the most commonly abused medications in the US, and some studies have concluded that opioid use can increase the chances of premature birth, preterm labor or stillbirths. Their addictive nature can also create dependency in your unborn child. If you are already taking opioids prior to getting pregnant, you should speak to your doctor about reducing your dosage safely to minimize damage and withdrawal symptoms.  

Antidepressants and pregnancy

If you have a history of depression or are currently facing untreated depression, antidepressants can be a lifeline. During pregnancy, however, there are risks and benefits to using this medication.

Risks There is evidence that taking SSRIs early in pregnancy slightly increases the chance of birth defects, as well as miscarriage. There is also the possibility that your child could suffer withdrawal symptoms, especially if the antidepressants are taken in the later stages of pregnancy.

Benefits Antidepressants can keep you calm at times of stress. Calmness is good for your baby and helps you to focus on seeking optimal prenatal care, eating healthy foods, and seeing to your baby’s needs. Additionally, untreated depression comes with the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, and decreased fetal growth. Antidepressants can help prevent that.

The most important thing to do here is to consult your doctor. By no means should you come off your antidepressants the moment you find out that you are pregnant. Instead, book an appointment with a medical professional and talk through your options. 

Herbal and homeopathic remedies when pregnant

While ‘natural’ implies that you are less likely to harm yourself or your baby, some remedies are of poor quality and contain harmful substances. It does not matter if there are no reports of side effects, there is little scientific data to support the effectiveness of alternative medicine. 

Conventional medicines, on the other hand, are subjected to rigorous investigation and given a pregnancy category classification. This rating helps medical professionals and pregnant individuals determine the best relief for them. While homeopathic medicines are also regulated by the FDA, they contain little or no active ingredients, meaning that they are not bound to the same set of standards.

How we can help

Medix cannot replace the expertise of your doctor. What we can do, however, is stock the drugs that they recommend at a price you can afford.

If you would like to find out more, contact us today. Our team is available by phone or email and is more than happy to help.