There may come a time during your pregnancy when you’re feeling under the weather and aren’t sure if you can take your regular over-the-counter (OTC) medication. Some medications are safe to take during pregnancy. But others are not, or their effects on your baby may not be known.
When you meet with your doctor to confirm you’re pregnant, ask what meds are OK to take and what meds you need to find alternatives for. Your health care provider will weigh the risks and benefits to help you know what’s safe.Also, tell your doctor about any alternative medicines or supplements you take, even if the label says “natural.” And if you get any new prescriptions while you’re pregnant, make sure the people who prescribe them know that you’re pregnant.
What Medications Are Safe to Take During Pregnancy?
Prenatal vitamins are safe and important to take when you’re pregnant. Ask your health care provider about the safety of taking other vitamins, herbal remedies, and supplements. Most herbal preparations and supplements have not been proven to be safe during pregnancy.
Generally, you should not take any OTC medication while pregnant unless it is necessary.
The following medications and home remedies have no known harmful effects during pregnancy when taken according to the package directions. Contact your doctor for additional information on their safety or for medications not listed here.
Safe Medications to Take During Pregnancy*
- diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- Loratadine (Claritin)
- Steroid nasal spray (Rhinocort)
Check with your doctor before taking these in the first trimester.
Cold and Flu
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Saline nasal drops or spray
- Warm salt/water gargle
Check with your doctor before taking any other medications, especially in the first trimester.
First Aid Ointment
- J&J First-Aid Cream
- Benadryl cream
- Caladryl lotion or cream
- Hydrocortisone cream or ointment
- Oatmeal bath (Aveeno)
*Note: No drug can be considered 100% safe to use during pregnancy.
What Alternative Therapies Are Considered Safe During Pregnancy?
Some alternative therapies have been shown to be safe and effective for pregnant women to relieve some of the uncomfortable side effects of pregnancy. Talk it over with your doctor first before using any of them. And remember, “Natural” doesn’t always equal “safe” when you’re pregnant.
Nausea in early pregnancy: Acupuncture, acupressure, ginger root (250 milligram capsules 4 times a day), and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, 25 milligrams two or three times a day) work well. Sipping the thick syrup from inside a can of peaches, pears, mixed fruits, pineapples, or orange slices may also help.Backache: Chiropractic manipulation holds the best track record. Another option is massage but it is important to make sure your massage therapist is adequately trained in pre-natal massage.Turning a breech baby: Exercise and hypnosis may help.Pain relief in labor: Epidurals are most effective, but immersion in a warm bath can also relieve tension. Relaxation and breathing techniques, emotional support, and self-hypnosis are widely used in labor. Acupuncture can also work for some women.
What Alternative Therapies Should Be Avoided During Pregnancy?
The following substances in concentrated formulation (not as a spice in cooking) may harm your baby. Some are thought to cause birth defects and potentially encourage early labor.
Avoid these oral supplements: Arbor vitae, beth root, black cohosh, blue cohosh, cascara, chaste tree berry, Chinese angelica (dong quai), cinchona, cotton root bark, feverfew, ginseng, golden seal, juniper, kava kava, licorice, meadow saffron, pennyroyal, poke root, rue, sage, St. John’s wort, senna, slippery root, tansy, white peony, wormwood, yarrow, yellow dock, and vitamin A (large doses can cause birth defects).
Avoid these aromatherapy essential oils: Calamus, mugwort, pennyroyal, sage, wintergreen, basil, hyssop, myrrh, marjoram, and thyme.
When in doubt about any medication, supplement, or therapy, ask your health care provider before taking or using it.