Most over-the-counter medications and drugs prescribed by your doctor are safe for you to use during pregnancy. However, it’s a good idea to do a little research to determine which drugs you should avoid as potentially harmful to your developing baby. You might be surprised by the risks some common medications can pose. For example, aspirin may be harmful to your baby, particularly if you take it during the last trimester of pregnancy.
Most painkillers contain an ingredient called acetylsalicylate, which can prolong pregnancy and has even been known to cause severe bleeding. When in doubt, you can always discuss it with your pharmacist or doctor, or you can consult the FDA’s ranking system for pregnancy risks.
The FDA has divided drugs into six categories based on the risks they pose for expectant mothers and their unborn babies.
Category A Drugs that have been thoroughly tested and confirmed as safe. These include folic acid, Vitamin B6, and thyroid medicine (in moderation).
Category B Drugs that don’t appear to include a risk factor. These include most antibiotics, acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspartame (artificial sweetener), famotidine (Pepcid), prednisone, cortisone, insulin (for diabetes), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) before the third trimester.
Category C Drugs that could potentially cause health issues, though studies have not yet confirmed a danger. These include prochlorperzaine (Compazine), Sudafed, fluconazole (Diflucan), ciprofloxacin (Cipro), and some antidepressants.
Category D Drugs with confirmed health risks. These include alcohol, lithium, phenytoin (Dilantin), and many chemotherapy drugs.
Category X Drugs proven to cause birth defects that should not be taken under any circumstances during pregnancy. These include sedatives (thalidomide) and many drugs used to treat skin conditions like cystic acne (Accutane) and psoriasis (Tegison or Soriatane).
The above list of course does not take into account illegal drugs like cocaine or heroine. It is probably not news to you that these substances are life-threatening, even for those who are not carrying a baby. For pregnant women, they should not be used under any circumstances. In addition to constricting arteries and reducing blood flow vital to a developing fetus, drug abuse can have tragic consequences for infants after birth.
During childbirth, the baby can experience narcotics withdrawal, which can be an extraordinarily painful and, in some instances, deadly ordeal. If you have not overcome a drug habit for yourself, do it for your unborn baby.
If you have any pregnancy questions or want to find out more about the drugs and medicines that are safe for you and your baby, feel free to email me.
I’m looking forward to helping you to have a healthy, safe pregnancy and childbirth!
Mark Zakowski, M.D.
The Safe Baby System