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How can I safely choose medicines during pregnancy?
No medication is 100 percent safe, and even medication that's safe for someone else to take during pregnancy might not be safe for you. So always check with your healthcare provider before you take any kind of medicine during pregnancy – even an over-the-counter (OTC) product.
In general, don't take more than the recommended dose, and try to avoid taking anything during your first trimester because that's when your developing baby is most vulnerable to the effects of medication.
Also talk with your provider about taking any prescription medicine during pregnancy, even if it's something you took before you were pregnant. She'll tell you if it's safe to take now and help you find a good alternative if it isn't.
Which medicines are safe to take in pregnancy?
The chart below lists the OTC medications that are considered low risk for pregnant women when taken occasionally to treat a mild illness. We've listed some brand names as examples, but there are many more on the market.
|Problem||Safe medicine to take when pregnant|
|Heartburn, gas and bloating, upset stomach|
Antacids for heartburn (Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, Tums)
Simethicone for gas pains (Gas-X, Maalox Anti-Gas, Mylanta Gas, Mylicon)
|Cough or cold|
Guaifenesin, an expectorant (Hytuss, Mucinex, Naldecon Senior EX, Robitussin)
Dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant (Benylin Adult, Robitussin Maximum Strength Cough, Scot-Tussin DM, Vicks 44 Cough Relief)
Guaifenesin plus dextromethorphan (Benylin Expectorant, Robitussin DM, Vicks 44E)
Not safe to take:
Cold remedies that contain alcohol
The decongestants pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, which can affect blood flow to the placenta
|Pain relief, headache, and fever||Acetaminophen (Anacin Aspirin-Free, Tylenol, Shake That Ache!)|
Chlorpheniramine, an antihistamine (Chlor-Trimeton allergy tablets)
Loratadine, an antihistamine (Alavert, Claritin, Tavist ND, Triaminic Allerchews)
Diphenhydramine, an antihistamine (Banophen, Benadryl, Diphenhist, Genahist)
|Constipation, hemorrhoids, and diarrhea|
Psyllium (Konsyl-D, Metamucil, Modane Bulk, Perdiem)
Polycarbophil (Equalactin, Fiber-Lax, FiberNorm, Konsyl, Mitrolan)
Methylcellulose (Citrucel, UniFiber)
Other laxatives and stool softeners (Colace, Dulcolax, Maltsupex, Move It Along!, milk of magnesia)
Hemorrhoid creams (Anusol, Preparation H, Tucks)
Loperamide, antidiarrheal medication (Imodium, Kaopectate II, Maalox Total Relief, Pepto Diarrhea Control)
|Yeast infections and other fungal infections such as athlete's foot|
Clotrimazole (Cruex, Gyne-Lotrimin 3, Lotrimin AF, Mycelex-7)
Miconazole (Desenex, Femizol-M, Micatin, Monistat 3)
Terbinafine (Lamisil AT)
Tioconazole (Monistat 1, Vagistat-1)
Butoconazole (Femstat 3, Mycelex-3)
Butenafine (Lotrimin Ultra)
Tolnaftate (Absorbine Athlete's Foot Cream, Absorbine Footcare, Genaspor, Tinactin)
Not safe to take:
Certain Cruex, Desenex, and FungiCure products that may contain antifungal agents not listed here and should not be used during pregnancy. Check labels carefully and avoid any products containing active ingredients not listed here.
Diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Maximum Strength Unisom SleepGels, Nytol, Sominex, Eazzze the Pain!)
Doxylamine succinate (Unisom SleepTabs)
|Itching||Hydrocortisone (Cortaid, Lanacort)|
|Cuts and scrapes||Polysporin|
Are natural or alternative remedies safe to use during pregnancy?
Just because a product is labeled "natural" doesn't necessarily mean it's safe to take during pregnancy. Like any drug, some natural remedies are considered low risk in pregnancy and some aren't.
The biggest challenge with determining the safety and effectiveness of natural or alternative remedies is that many haven't yet been studied in pregnant or breastfeeding women, so the risks are simply unknown. Also, many natural and homeopathic remedies aren't well regulated, so it's difficult to know exactly what's in them.
Some nonmedicinal treatments, like prenatal massage, can be perfectly safe and helpful during pregnancy. Others, such as acupuncture, are probably safe, but no one knows for sure. Other treatments, like herbal teas, can be as potent and possibly dangerous as any prescription drug and have similar side effects.
For your safety – and your baby's – always check with your healthcare provider before trying any alternative medicine or treatment.
Where can I learn more about safe medicines during pregnancy?
If you have a question about the safety of any medication during pregnancy, talk with your healthcare provider.
An excellent online resource for evidence-based information on medication safety is the MotherToBaby website, a service of the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists. This is a professional scientific organization of experts who study teratogens, which are chemicals or substances in the environment (like radiation, for example) that can cause birth defects. The website provides fact sheets on drugs and exposures that might affect your baby as well as a list of teratogen information services that you can contact for more information.