Pregnancy can be an exciting time. However, this time can also make you feel uneasy if you are not sure how your medicines will affect your baby. Even headache or pain medicine may not be safe during certain times in your pregnancy.
Most pregnant women (about 9 in 10 or 90 percent) take some type of medicine (including over-the-counter) during pregnancy, and 7 in 10 take at least one prescription drug during pregnancy. Not all medicines are safe to use during pregnancy. However, don’t start or stop taking any prescription medicine before, during or after pregnancy without talking to your health care providers first. Here are some other things you should know:
- Certain medicines taken during pregnancy can increase the risk for birth defects, pregnancy loss, prematurity, infant death or developmental disabilities.
- The effects of medicine on you and your baby depend on many factors, such as how much medicine you take (also called the dose), when during the pregnancy you take the medicine, other health conditions you have and other medicines you take.
How can you make sure a prescription drug is safe to take during pregnancy?
Make sure that any provider who prescribes medicine for you knows that you’re pregnant. This includes providers you may see for dental care, mental health or other health problems, like chronic health conditions. Your provider can tell you if a prescription medicine is safe. She may want you to stop taking a medicine or switch to one that’s safer for you and your baby. Don’t stop taking a prescription medicine without talking to your provider first.
Check with your provider before taking any over-the-counter drug, such as pain relievers, cold medicine, vitamins, herbal pills and medicine for your skin. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that you ask your provider or pharmacist:
- Will I need to change my medicines if I want to get pregnant?
- How could this medicine affect my baby?
- What medicines and herbs should I avoid?
- Will I need to take more or less of my medicine?
- Can I keep taking this medicine when I start breastfeeding?
If your provider gives you a prescription for medicine or recommends an over-the counter medication, make sure you:
- Take it exactly as your provider says to take it.
- Don’t take it with alcohol or other drugs.
- Don’t take someone else’s prescription medicine.
How can prescription medicine harm your baby during pregnancy?
Some prescription drugs can cause problems for your baby, including:
- Premature birth
- Low birthweight
- Birth defects
- Neonatal abstinence syndrome (also called NAS)
- Learning and behavior problems later in life
- Miscarriage and stillbirth
- Sudden infant death syndrome (also called SIDS). This is the unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old.
Which prescription drugs can cause birth defects?
If you’re pregnant and taking any of these medicines, tell your provider right away:
- Captopril (Capoten®)
- Carbamazepine (Carbatrol®, Epitol®, Equetro®, Tegretol®)
- Enalapril (Vasotec®)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac®)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
- Isotretinoin (Accutane®, Amnesteem®, Claravis®, Sotret®)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®)
- Paroxetine (Paxil®)
- Thalidomide (Thalomid®)
- Tramadol (ConZip®, Ryzolt®, Ultram®)
- Valproic acid (Depacon®, Depakene®, Depakote®, Stavzor®, Valproic®)
- Warfarin (Coumadin®, Jantoven®)
Is it safe to take medicine if you’re breastfeeding?
Talk with your provider after you have your baby about the medicines you are thinking of taking. Some medicines can affect your baby if you breastfeed.
To find out about other prescription medicines that can cause birth defects, go to mothertobaby.org.
Visit marchofdimes.org for more information about medicine safety during pregnancy.