Many medications, whether prescription or over the counter, can harm a pregnancy. The greatest risk of malformation to your unborn baby comes between 18 and 60 days after conception. Avoid all drugs during this time unless your prenatal care provider tells you otherwise. Even later in pregnancy, medications can affect your baby’s growth and behaviour.
If you can, try to care for yourself without using medications. Pharmacists, doctors and midwives are a valuable source of information. They can recommend various safe options to help you feel better.
To give your unborn baby enough vitamins and minerals, be sure to follow recommended daily intakes. A deficiency or lack of vitamins can harm your baby. Your doctor will recommend an appropriate vitamin to take while pregnant. Make certain that you are not taking vitamins A and D in excess amounts. A woman who takes folic acid supplements before and during early pregnancy can reduce the risk of a neural tube defect (NTD) in her baby. Neural tube defects are problems with the brain and spinal cord. Most women should take 0.4 milligrams of folic acid before and during pregnancy to lower the risk of NTD. Two groups of women need even more folic acid supplements:
If you are considering an OTC medication, it is essential to talk with your pharmacist, doctor or midwife. These professionals can help you to make an informed decision. They can suggest the most effective medication and the lowest possible dose to take for the shortest possible amount of time. Sometimes an option might be a local application of the medication that will not affect the unborn baby.
Many women feel nauseous during pregnancy, especially during the early months. Although it may be normal, the symptoms can be a nuisance.Strategies to try
Pregnant women should not treat themselves with any over-the-counter medication for nausea as these drugs may not be safe to use during pregnancy. If the suggestions above do not work, ask your doctor for advice. Sometimes 50 milligrams of vitamin B6 taken at bedtime helps. One prescription drug, Diclectin™, is completely safe to take in pregnancy.
Pregnant women go through a lot of changes, including hormone changes and an expanding uterus. Stomach acid irritation, heart burn and gas can result.Strategies to try
Although most OTC antacids are safe to use during pregnancy, check with your doctor. The best time to use antacids is about half an hour after eating. Keep in mind that products containing aluminum can constipate, while those with magnesium can cause diarrhea. An antacid that combines both aluminum and magnesium may prevent a change in bowel habit.
Products containing calcium carbonate can also be safe but may cause constipation. Do not use any products that have sodium bicarbonate or acetylsalicylic acid, such as Aspirin™. Products with alginic acid are designed for the type of heartburn that feels like something is coming back up. Zantac™and Pepcid™ should only be used under the supervision of your doctor.
Simethicone is a silicone product in anti-gas medicines. It is not absorbed into the bloodstream. It can be used to help treat gas temporarily.
A pregnant woman is more likely to get hemorrhoids than someone who is not pregnant. Expectant mothers often get constipated. Straining to have a bowel movement can result in hemorrhoids. The best prevention is to eat a diet high in grains, vegetables and fruits to encourage regular bowel movements. Develop good bowel habits.
In particular, avoid straining by going to the bathroom when the urge first occurs.Strategies to try
You might try a stool softener or a glycerine suppository to help with constipation, but do not use it on an ongoing basis. Stay away from the following laxatives:
The best types of products to use are bulk-forming laxatives that contain methylcellulose or psyllium. If you develop hemorrhoids during pregnancy, consult your doctor before using any OTC drugs. A sitz bath can relieve irritation in the rectal area and petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline™) may be soothing.
Hormone changes can cause diarrhea. Excess diarrhea may be a signal that the pregnancy is at risk. Consult your doctor if diarrhea is very frequent (more than three times in a day), watery, bloody, mucousy or accompanied by a fever.Strategies to try
If you are experiencing diarrhea, remember to take enough fluids to prevent dehydration. Simple carbohydrate foods like bread, pasta, and low fat foods may be helpful. Avoiding dairy products for 24 to 48 hours is often advised.Medication options
OTC medications to stop diarrhea should not be used unless absolutely necessary. If you must use one, a local acting agent containing attapulgite is appropriate. Bulk forming laxatives containing psyllium may help control diarrhea by helping form stool.
Common colds and allergies can affect pregnant women just as in anyone else. However, it is best not to use medication to treat symptoms until you have talked with your doctor.Strategies to try
The cough suppressant dextromethorphan (DM) can be used in pregnancy but only after discussion with a doctor. Codeine is another possibility, but again only if your doctor agrees. Only consider these medications if the benefit outweighs the risk to the unborn baby.
Read labels carefully when choosing any medications. Some liquid medications may contain ethanol. Consult your pharmacist if you are unsure.
If you have nasal congestion, avoid oral decongestants, especially in the first trimester. A nasal spray decongestant is a better choice, if an inhaled saline nasal spray does not work. Use it sparingly and for no more than three days. Lozenges may be used as long as you do not have diabetes. You should discuss with your prenatal care provider if you require antihistamines.
Everyone knows the pain of headaches and muscle aches. Pregnant women are no exception. The strain of carrying a baby can cause backaches and muscle aches as well. Low back pain similar to menstrual pains can be a sign of preterm labour and requires attention by your prenatal care provider.Strategies to try
Analgesics (pain killers) should not be used unless necessary. If you must use an analgesic, acetaminophen is the drug of choice. Avoid products containing acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. These may interfere with the baby’s kidney function or cause premature closing of the fetal arteries.
Due to various discomforts of pregnancy, many women find it hard to sleep.Strategies to try
OTC sleeping pills are not recommended if you are pregnant. Many of them are antihistamines with sedating effects.
Hormone changes during pregnancy can cause acne. There are a few ways to control it.Strategies to try
You should not use acne care products with vitamin A if you are pregnant. Pregnant women can try topical (skin) preparations with benzoyl peroxide, but check with the doctor first.
More pressure is put on the feet with the added weight of carrying a baby. Corns and calluses may develop.Strategies to try
You may use topical preparations containing salicylic acid to treat corns and calluses until the third trimester of pregnancy. After that, avoid them.
The hormone changes of pregnancy may make eyes dry. However, using OTC eye drops containing a decongestant to get rid of redness is not recommended. Saline eye drops or artificial tears may be used safely and frequently. Ask your pharmacist about which brands contain just artificial tears.
Pregnant women are more at risk for yeast infections. You must be sure that the infection is yeast and not something else more serious in pregnancy.Strategies to try
OTC yeast treatments are safe to use. When clotrimazole and miconazole are applied to the vagina, absorption is minimal. However, confirm a vaginal infection with your doctor before treating it again.
Hormone changes during pregnancy may darken some areas of the skin. Using a sunscreen to protect against the sun’s rays will reduce pigmentation changes. Although a two per cent
hydroquinone cream can help, there is no evidence of its safety in pregnancy. It is best to wait until after the birth, so the cream can be applied without worry.
If a pregnant woman gets lice, alternative measures can control but will not kill them.Strategies to try
For pregnant women with lice R & C™ (pyrethrin with piperonyl butoxide) or Nix™ (permethrin) may be used but with your doctor’s advice. If you have allergies to ragweed or chrysanthemum, avoid these products and ask your doctor for suggestions. Do not apply these more than twice during a pregnancy. Other products are not recommended for use during pregnancy.
If a pregnant woman gets pin worms, she must consult her doctor. Even though it may be uncomfortable, she should not treat this condition by taking OTC medications.Strategies to try
If you are pregnant, it is best to avoid any unnecessary drugs to reduce the chance of harming your baby. There are many medical conditions, such as asthma and depression, that are a greater risk to the pregnancy than the medications used to treat them. If you must use a medication, carefully consider the advice of your prenatal care provider and pharmacist. Weigh the risks and benefits before you decide to go ahead.