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What Medications You Should Avoid While Pregnant

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Your back hurts, you’ve never had nausea like this before and you always have a low-grade headache. Pregnancy can come with all sorts of symptoms, but while everything may seem a little uncomfortable right now, it’s generally recommended to avoid medicines during pregnancy, if possible -- especially during the first three months when the baby’s major organs are forming. However, if you need to take medicine, it’s essential that you know what your safest options are.

It’s important to note that it can be hard to know what medications are safe for your baby as most treatments are not studied on pregnant women. However, there are some medicines that women have been taking for long enough that doctors can be sure of the level of safety associated with their usage. With that being said, you should always consult with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medication or starting or stopping a prescription medication.

Below are a few common types of medications that have been shown to cause birth defects or other issues with pregnancy as well alternatives to safely treat your symptoms.

Over-The-Counter Medications:

For Minor Aches and Pains:

  • Avoid - Aspirin, found in Excedrin
  • Avoid - Ibuprofen, found in Advil or Motrin
  • Avoid - Naproxen, found in Aleve

Possible alternative - Acetaminophen such as Tylenol

For an Upset Stomach and Diarrhea:

  • Avoid - Bismuth subsalicylate, found in Pepto Bismol

Possible alternative - Imodium

For Cold and Allergy Symptoms:

  • Avoid - Bromphen-iramine, found in Dimetapp Cold and Allergy
  • Avoid - Chlorphen-iramine, found in Advil Allergy and congestion relief medicines; Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold Formula
  • Avoid -Phenylephrine and pseudo-ephedrine, found in Alka-Seltzer Plus Day, Sudafed PE Pressure + Pain, Tylenol Cold Multi-symptom, Vicks Dayquil Cold and Flu Relief

Possible alternative – Claritin, Zyrtec fluids and steam to relieve congestion

Prescription Medications:

Prescription medicine safety can vary widely depending on the formulation and dosage, so it’s particularly important to speak to your doctor as soon as you find out you are pregnant in order to determine the best course of action for your health and the health of your baby. Below are a few types of medicines that may require some additional scrutiny.

  • Acne medications, such as Tretinoin or Retin-A Cream
  • Antidepressants
  • Bipolar medication
  • Seizure medication
  • Asthma medication

If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, you should talk to your doctor about all medications you are taking. Your doctor can help you manage your prescriptions, adjust dosages if needed and find alternatives for common over-the-counter drugs you might not even consider to ensure the health and safety of you and your baby.

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