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Which Medications Are Safe During Pregnancy?

Pregnant woman cartoon holding medication.

Every 4.5 minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the United States—that is, roughly 120,000 babies affected each year[1]. Although the cause is not always thoroughly understood, taking certain medications while pregnant can increase the chances, especially in the first three months of pregnancy when the baby’s organs are forming. It is important to know which medications are safe during pregnancy.

Note: Pregnant women should not stop or start taking any type of medicine that they need without talking with a healthcare provider. Women who plan to become pregnant should discuss the need for any medicine with their healthcare provider before becoming pregnant[1]

Pain-relief Medications

Acetaminophen is the most common pain reliever that doctors recommend for pregnant women. Tylenol® is a brand name of acetaminophen; both Tylenol® and acetaminophen are available over-the-counter without a prescription. Do not take aspirin (Anacin®, Bayer®) or ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®)[2]. According to the CDC, studies have shown that women who take these drugs while pregnant are more likely to give birth to babies with congenital heart defects[1].

Anti-nausea Medications

Nausea is a common symptom of pregnancy. According to WebMD, the following over-the-counter medications are safe during pregnancy: Doxylamine (in combination with pyridoxine), Emetrex®, Emetrol® (if not diabetic), and Vitamin B6 (100 mg tablet)[3]. Sea-Bands® are also an option, which is a non-pharmacological acupressure wrist band for those who desire non-drug relief.

Heartburn Medications

Heartburn or acid reflux can cause immense discomfort and pain that can greatly interfere with the quality of life of pregnant patients. Gaviscon®, Maalox®, Mylanta®, Riopan®, Titralac®, and Tums® are some of the fairly safe options for heartburn relief during pregnancy. 

Rash Medications

Rashes are not uncommon during pregnancy. The following over-the-counter medications are generally safe and recommended for pregnant patients: Benadryl® cream, Caladryl® lotion or cream, and hydrocortisone cream or ointment. Oatmeal baths are also safe and effective in treating rashes[4].

Cough/Cold Medicine

Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines and remedies such as guaifenesin (Robitussin®), guaifenesin plus dextromethorphan (Robitussin-DM®), cough drops, Vicks VapoRub®, and acetaminophen are safe to take during pregnancy.

Allergy Relief

These over-the-counter antihistamine medications are acceptable to take during pregnancy.: 

Constipation Relief

Citrucel®, Colace®, Fiberall®/FiberCon®, Metamucil®, Milk of Magnesia, and Senokot®[3]

Medications That Are Never Safe During Pregnancy

Common medications that should be avoided during pregnancy are chloramphenicol), aspirin, ibuprofen, opioids, Klonopin®, Xanax®, and Valium® [4]. Usage of chloramphenicol later in the pregnancy can potentially cause congenital effects including “grey baby syndrome.” Other medications are all linked to serious birth anomalies and should be avoided.

Remember to always consult your doctor before ending or starting any medication— prescription or over-the-counter. To honor Birth Defects Prevention Month this January, please join the nationwide effort to raise awareness of birth defects and their impacts on families! 

Learn more here: https://www.nbdpn.org/bdpm.php

[1]https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/facts.html#:~:text=Birth%20defects%20are%20common%2C%20costly,the%20United%20States%20each%20year.&text=Read%20more%20about%20what%20we,born%20without%20a%20birth%20defect.

[2]https://www.webmd.com/baby/pain-relievers-that-are-safe-during-pregnancy#1

[3]https://www.webmd.com/women/pregnancy-medicine#1

[4]https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/category-c-drugs#warfarin-coumadin

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