The rules around pregnancy are always evolving and so are the medications, systems and practices. So, it’s completely fine if you don’t know what’s the best process to follow in today’s times. It’s also a time when you need to learn and unlearn about your body and take the necessary precautions to safeguard the health of you and your baby.
Something as innocent as popping the wrong pill can have a long-term effect during pregnancy. Once you’ve found out that you’re expecting a baby, it’s necessary to ask yourself, “What medications are not safe to take during pregnancy?”
Taking Medications During Pregnancy
Now the science behind the effects of medicines on pregnant women is limited. This is largely due to pregnant women not being a part of medication safety studies due to ethical reasons. This leaves you with little knowledge to know about the harmful effects of taking the wrong medication.
However, certain medications are considered category X drugs that should be taken by expecting mums or women trying to become pregnant.
That’s why you need to consult a gynaecologist as soon as you find out about your pregnancy to guide you about all the safety measures and precautions.
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What Medications You Should Not Take During Pregnancy?
Prescription drugs are particularly harmful to pregnant if taken unchecked. Your gynaecologist will be able to recommend the right medicines based on your medical history and in case you are already on medicines for long-term health issues. However, there are a handful of medications that you should avoid that could have risky effects.
Here’s a shortlist of the medicines you shouldn’t take during pregnancy:
- Naproxen Sodium (Aleve)
- Acne medicines
- Anti-fungal medication
- Anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants
- Antibiotics (unless prescribed by your doctor)
- Antihistamines (unless prescribed by your doctor)
- Migraine medications (unless prescribed by your doctor)
- Sleeping aids
- Bismuth Subsalicylate
Read more on why these medications aren’t suitable for you and your little ones here, mums! At the same time, if you need to take any medication while pregnant, only take those prescribed by your doctor.
What Flu Medication Is Safe for Pregnancy?
While flu is common among child and adults, it can be risky for pregnant women, especially during the third trimester. Having influenza during pregnancy increases the risk of stillbirth or other congenital defects.
Ideally, pregnant women should avoid taking medicines, especially during the first trimester. However, if you have flu and colds, you feel you need to take medication, paracetamol is safe to take. Remember to check in with your doctor first before taking any medicines for flu.
You can also try home remedies like gargling with warm water and salt, or use saline nasal drops or spray. To avoid flu and the complications it presents, pregnant women can have the flu vaccine at any time during the pregnancy.
Is UTI Medication Safe for Pregnancy?
Frequent urination is normal in pregnancy, but if you feel a burning sensation when you pee, you might have a urinary tract infection (UTI). Having UTI in pregnancy puts you at risk of getting high blood pressure and your baby is at risk for preterm delivery or having a low birth weight.
The usual treatment for UTI is antibiotics, however, there are antibiotics that are said to cause birth defects. To be safe, it is better to consult your doctor before taking any medications for UTI while pregnant to make sure you will be prescribed with pregnancy-safe medications. Meanwhile, you can speed up your healing by drinking enough water.
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Cleveland Clinic came up with this list of pregnancy-safe medications for common illnesses:
Type of Remedy: Allergy
Type of Remedy: Cold and Flu
- Mentholated creams
- Mentholated or non-mentholated cough drops (sugar-free cough drops for gestational diabetes should not contain blends of herbs or aspartame)
- Pseudoephedrine (after 1st trimester)
*Note: Do not take the “SA” (Sustained Action) form of these drugs or the “Multi-Symptom” form of these drugs.
- Loperamide (after 1st trimester, for 24 hours only)
Type of Remedy: Constipation
- Methylcellulose fibre
- psyllium fibre
- polyethylene glycol (occasional use only)
Type of Remedy: First Aid Ointment
- Neomycin/polymyxin B
- Better research for home remedies
- Aluminum hydroxide/magnesium carbonate*
- Aluminum hydroxide/magnesium hydroxide
- Calcium carbonate/magnesium carbonate
- Calcium carbonate
*Occasional use only
- Phenylephrine/mineral oil/petrolatum
- Witch hazel
Type of Remedy: Nausea and Vomiting
- Vitamin B6
Type of Remedy: Rashes
- Diphenhydramine cream
- Hydrocortisone cream or ointment
- Oatmeal bath
Type of Remedy: Yeast Infection
Warning: It is important to note that no drug is 100 per cent safe for pregnancy, so DO NOT self-.medicate and always seek the advice of your doctor before taking any medication.
What Are The Health Risks Of Taking Azathioprine When Pregnant?
One mum took azathioprine while pregnant due to her illness and had a nasty surprise when she gave birth to her little one. The baby was born with no skin, hair, eyelashes and even fingernails. The birth defect can be attributed to the mum’s diseases, but some experts are saying it can also be a side effect of the medication Azathioprine.
Mums, please note that taking azathioprine during pregnancy is not recommended by the FDA. According to this study, it’s known that taking azathioprine while pregnant may lead to a rise in congenital abnormalities.
For instance, in the study, the researchers point out that taking azathioprine could lead to:
- Slower development in the womb
- A higher risk of premature birth and low birth weight
- A variety of different conditions affect the head, spinal cord, thymus, kidney, blood, lungs, urinary bladder, eyes, urethra, and hands.
However, there are conflicting results. Some studies suggest that taking azathioprine can lead to heart defects, low birth weight, premature birth and small size for gestational age. Other studies, on the other hand, claim that it’s safe.
It’s important to note that perhaps the mum’s disease, Pemphigus Vulgaris could have also contributed to her baby being born skinless. Of course, no mum or doctor wants a baby in the womb to be at risk of incomplete development. Therefore, all expecting women should ensure that the drugs they take are safe and will not affect foetal growth.
We can’t stress this enough. Always check with your doctors before taking any kind of medication when pregnant.
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What To Consider Before Buying Over-The-Counter (OTC) Medications?
- Consult with your doctor. Before you take any medication make sure to consult with your gynaecologist. You should know most of these popular OTC medications have serious long-term effects. Ask yourself, are you willing to put your baby’s life in danger to get rid of that headache?
- Avoid combination drugs. Do not take two different kinds of medications together. Only do this if your doctor recommends it. For instance, an anti-allergy drug and a pain reliever can be a deadly combination. Consult your doctor before consuming any kind of combination drugs.
- Read labels. Always make sure to read the labels before you buy or consume an OTC medication. Many-a-times, ingredients like alcohol and caffeine show unannounced. So be careful with what you purchase and share the information with your doctor, as always.
Always check with your doctors about drugs and drug safety. You should never self-medicate without professional advice. That way, you can get the best outcome from your pregnancy each step along the way.
This article about what medications are not safe to take during pregnancy was originally written in Bahasa Indonesia by Adisty Titania. It was translated and further edited by Kevin Wijaya Oey, later republished with the permission of theAsianparent Indonesia.
Updates by Camille Eusebio
Here at theAsianparent Singapore, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advice or medical treatment. theAsianparent Singapore is not responsible for those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend consulting your doctor for clearer information.