Every woman experiences pregnancy differently. You might have morning sickness for months, while your best friend feels great. One universal, however, is that pregnant women can still get sick — and they experience more aches and pains than normal. Whether it’s the common cold, heartburn, or a headache, you might be tempted to reach for your go-to over-the-counter remedy. But before you do, it’s important to know what you should and shouldn’t take during pregnancy. Reading labels will help you to understand what’s in your medications before you take it.
When can I take medicine during pregnancy?
If you’re newly pregnant (less than 12 weeks along), you may want to rethink taking unnecessary over-the-counter drugs. The first 12 weeks of your pregnancy are a critical time for your baby in terms of organ development. Many doctors recommend avoiding all over-the-counter drugs during this time. Doing so can help to avoid birth defects and other serious problems that could arise from potentially harmful medications.
Most doctors agree that it’s safer to take over-the-counter medications during the second trimester. However, you should be aware that some medications could impact your baby’s nervous system or birth weight during this time. Taking medications after 28 weeks is also discouraged, because they can impact your baby after birth. The medications can cross into your baby’s system, and baby may not handle it the same way you do, leading to things like breathing difficulties. Always tell your doctor what medications you take and find out if that choice is appropriate during your pregnancy.
What OTC Medicines are Safe During Pregnancy?
Pregnancy brings with it a laundry list of ailments and complaints. Luckily, several over-the-counter remedies are safe to use during pregnancy. Although the following list isn’t comprehensive, it should give you a general idea about what’s okay to take during pregnancy to relieve common complaints. Again, discuss any medications you take with your doctor.
Antihistamines that include Chlorpheniramine, Loratadine, and Diphenhydramine (Chlor-Trimeton, Alavert, Claritin, Benadryl)
Cold and Cough
Over-the-counter medicines containing Guaifenesin, an expectorant (Robitussin, Mucinex, Hytuss, Neldecon Senior EX). Cough suppressants containing Dextromethorphan (Robitussin, Vicks 44 Cough Relief). Cough drops and Vicks VapoRub are also safe when used as recommended. Medications you should avoid include anything with alcohol, pseudoephedrine, and phenylephrine.
Constipation, diarrhea, and hemorrhoids
Constipation medications containing Polycarbophil (Fiber-Lax, Equalactin) Psyllium (Metamucil, Perdiem, and Konsyl-D), as well as laxatives and stool softeners (Colace, milk of magnesia, Maltsupex). Anti-diarrhea medications containing Loperamide (Imodium, Maalox Anti-Diarrheal, Pepto Diarrhea Control). Hemorrhoid creams (Tucks, Preparation H).
Heartburn, upset stomach, gas/bloating
Antacids (Tums, Mylanta, Rolaids, and Maalox). Simethicone for gas pain (Gas-X, Mylanta Gas, Mylicon, and Maalox Anti-Gas)
Diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Nytol) and Doxylamine succinate (Unisom Nighttime Sleep-Aid)
Hydrocortisone (Cortaid, Lanacort).
Pain relief, headaches, and fever
Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Anacin Aspirin-Free)
Tioconazole (Monistat 1, and Vagistat 1), Clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin 3, Lotrimin AF), Miconazole (Monistat 3, Desenex). Some antifungal products shouldn’t be used during pregnancy. Check with your doctor and carefully check labels.
What OTC Medicines to Avoid During Pregnancy
Pregnant women should avoid the following medications: ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), Bactrim (an antibiotic), aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), and codeine. When choosing medications, avoid all-in-one medications such as cold medicine that treats nasal congestion, fever, and aches and pains with one dose. Instead, treat specific symptoms (i.e. nasal congestion). This decreases the chance of choosing a medication that might have ingredients that aren’t safe for you or your baby.
When should I talk to my doctor?
Although many medications are thought to be safe during pregnancy, it’s important to discuss any medications you’re taking with your doctor. That’s especially true if you have a high-risk pregnancy. If you experience any unusual symptoms while taking an over-the-counter medication, contact your doctor immediately. You should also contact your doctor if you think you have the flu or experience dizziness, vaginal bleeding, severe vomiting, high fever, reduced fetal movement, difficulty breathing, or chest pain. The flu can increase the risk of birth defects or premature labor.