Medicines and Herbal Remedies During Pregnancy
If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, you will want to know what medicines and herbal remedies are safe to take after you become pregnant. If possible, talk with your health care provider about your current medicines before you conceive. As soon as you know you are pregnant, tell your providers and discuss what medicines are safe for you to take.
If you are breast-feeding, some medicines may pass into the breast milk. This can cause unwanted effects on your nursing baby. So also be sure to check with your provider about taking medicines after your baby is born.
Medications Taken For a Medical Condition
For some health problems, the benefits of taking the medicine during pregnancy outweigh the risks to the baby. This includes conditions such as:
- High blood pressure
If you have one of these conditions, don't assume you should stop taking the medicine. Always check with your doctor about what's right for you. You may also be able to switch to another medicine that treats your problem with less risk to your baby.
Medicines Known to Cause Potential Harm
Some medicines have been shown to cause possible birth defects or other problems in unborn children. For other medicines, there is not enough information to know if they are safe or unsafe during pregnancy.
Some of the medicines known to cause birth defects are listed below. This list provides examples only -- DO NOT assume a medicine is safe or unsafe based solely on this chart.
|Drug||Used to Treat||Possible effect during pregnancy|
|Accutane (Isotretinoin)||Acne||Miscarriage; heart, jaw, facial, and brain defects|
|Anticoagulants such as warfarin and dicumarol||Blood clots||Miscarriage, bone, cartilage, eye, and central nervous system defects|
|Anticonvulsants such as Dilantin, Tridione, Paradione, and Depakote||Seizure disorders and irregular heartbeat||Intellectual disability; growth and developmental abnormalities; neural tube defects, defects of the hands/face|
|Antithyroid drugs such as propylthiouracil, iodide, Methimazole||Overactive thyroid||Thyroid gland defects|
|Radiation therapy||Medical treatment of disorders such as cancer||Growth restriction and intellectual disability|
|Chemotherapy drugs such as methotrexate and aminopterin||Cancer and skin disease||Miscarriage and birth defects|
|Etretinate (Tegison)||Psoriasis||Heart, jaw, and facial defects|
|Lithium||Bipolar disorder||Congenital heart defects|
|Tetracycline||Infection||Underdeveloped tooth enamel; becomes incorporated into fetal bones|
|Organic Mercury||Exposure through eating contaminated food||Brain disorders|
|Lead||Industries involving lead smelting, paint manufacture and use, printing, ceramics, glass manufacturing, and pottery glazing||Problems in development of the fetal central nervous system|
|From American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Planning for Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond (pp. 106-107).|
Aspirin and Ibuprofen
You should avoid aspirin during pregnancy, unless your provider says you can take it. Sometimes, women with a history of blood clotting problems, miscarriage, or pre-eclampsia are told to take aspirin while they are pregnant. Otherwise, it's best not to take aspirin. Be aware that aspirin is in many other over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, such as Pepto Bismol and cold medicines. You should avoid ibuprofen during pregnancy, as it can affect the fetus' kidneys.
Tylenol (acetaminophen) is generally safe to take during pregnancy in standard doses. Be sure to check with your doctor before you take more than a few doses. Ask your provider how many days in a row you can take it safely.
Medications for Colds, Constipation, and Indigestion
Some OTC medicines and remedies are safe to take for these ailments. Check with your provider about which medicine is best for you, based on your symptoms and how far along you are in your pregnancy. If you get the OK to take cold remedies, look for those with only one active ingredient.
Herbal Medicines During Pregnancy
While often thought of as "natural," herbal medicines can be just as potent as some prescription medicines. Many herbs contain chemicals that will cross the placenta to your baby. Some herbs have been known to cause premature contractions. You should avoid using medicinal drugs (including herbal tea), particularly during the first trimester. Always talk to your health care provider before taking any herbs during pregnancy.
Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.