They say pregnancy changes everything. And few things make that more apparent than when you’re pregnant, have a headache or stomachache, and you literally have no idea what is safe to take for it. The pills you used to pop without even a moment’s hesitation now has you running for Google. And, even when the kind Internet assures you it’s safe – you may still feel concern because, let’s face it, as a pregnant after loss mama, you want to be as safe as you can be.

pregnant woman looking at medicine - how to know what medicine is safe in pregnancy

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Here are a few steps you can take to make sure your medicine is safe in pregnancy.

Be vigilant about your medication use, especially during the first trimester.

As we mentioned when discussing how much caffeine is safe, your baby in the first trimester does not have a fully functioning liver yet. This means that he or she cannot appropriately filter medicine that may cross through the placenta. Precaution should be taken in all trimesters. However, your baby is particularly vulnerable in those first tender weeks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “more than 90% of the medications approved by the FDA from 1980 to 2000 had insufficient data to determine safety in pregnancy[1]“Pregnancy and Medicine,” reviewed by Todd Nivin, MD, WebMD, August 5, 2018, https://www.webmd.com/women/pregnancy-medicine#1.” There’s a lot we still don’t know about how our medication interacts with pregnancy. Which is why it is so important for you to only take medicine when necessary. And have a conversation with your doctor as soon as possible about medication use.

Talk to your doctor.

By the time you leave your first appointment, you should have an approved medication list from your doctor. This should cover all normal over-the-counter meds you may consider taking, such as pain relievers, allergy meds, cold or cough suppressants, and antacids. Some doctors prefer to mail this to you, even before your appointment, once your pregnancy has been verified.

At that appointment, go over the list of approved meds to make sure there aren’t any contraindications in your pregnancy – either with your conditions or with your current prescribed medication. No internet search, no pregnancy app like this one, can take the place of your doctor’s recommendations on approved medicine. They are the one who is best equipped to weigh risk versus benefit and advise you accordingly.

Take the list of your approved medications with you.

Chances are, you might come down with a headache or a severe case of reflux while you’re not at home. To help ensure you know what is safe when you need it, keep the list with you. We’re not suggesting you tote around a note from your doctor.  But you can put the info on your phone which you’re likely to have consistent access to in case you need some meds when you’re not at home. Take a photo of the list, add it to a file organizer like Dropbox, or just type the safe medicines and dosages into your notes.

What if you need medicine before you talk to your doctor?

In case you need some over-the-counter medicine, and you haven’t yet had your first appointment, you can always call the nurse line during office hours. A concern you may have is that it may take some time for them to get back with you. Or you may find yourself with a headache in the middle of the night – and know it’s not severe enough to call an on-call doc.

To help you sort through what is most likely safe, here’s a list of generally approved over-the-counter medications during pregnancy.

Please note that no medication can ever be guaranteed to be 100% safe. So only take it when necessary and follow the dosage instructions carefully[2]These medications are listed as generally safe in pregnancy per WebMD. Please note their disclaimer that no medicine is guaranteed to be 100% safe. Also, they highly recommend running all meds … Continue reading.

Pain medicine

  • Tylenol (acetaminophen)

Cough, cold, or allergy

Check with your provider before taking any of the following in your first trimester:

  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Loratadine (Claritin)
  • Steroid nasal spray (Rhinocort)
  • Saline nasal drops or spray
  • Robitussin (Verify with your doctor. Some should not be used in the first trimester.)
  • Trind-DM
  • Vicks Cough Syrup
  • Actifed, Dristan, Neosynephrine*, Sudafed (Check with your doctor first. Do not use in your first trimester. Do not take sustained action (SA) or “multi-symptom” forms of these drugs.)
  • Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Tylenol Cold
  • Warm salt/water gargle

Stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting

  • Gaviscon
  • Maalox
  • Mylanta
  • Riopan
  • Titralac
  • TUMs
  • Emetrex
  • Emetrol (if not diabetic)
  • Sea bands
  • Vitamin B6 (100 mg tablet)

Constipation

  • Colace
  • Metamucil
  • Fiberall/Fibercon
  • Milk of Magnesia
  • Senekotgs

Diarrhea

Please note that these are only safe for 24 hours, and cannot be used in the first trimester:

  • Imodium
  • Kaopectate
  • Parepectolin

Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins are not only safe but are recommended in pregnancy to fill in any nutritional gap. If your doctor has not prescribed a prenatal for you, you can find out more here on what to look for in your daily vitamin.

First-aid cream

  • Bacitracin
  • J&J First-Aid Cream
  • Neosporin
  • Polysporin

Rash relief

  • Benadryl cream
  • Caladryl lotion or cream
  • Hydrocortisone cream or ointment
  • Oatmeal bath (Aveeno)

Be sure to take the right meds for your symptoms

It should go without saying, but only take medicine as directed for the issues you need to address. If you are unsure if a particular medicine is indicated for your symptoms, you can go here, then click on the medicine you want to know more about to get dosage instructions and its indicated use.

What about natural alternatives?

Given the fact that many medications’ interactions with pregnancy are not fully understood, it may seem best to stick with “natural” alternatives. However, you need to take just as much precaution here as you do with over-the-counter medicine. Products that are marketed as “natural alternatives” are not as studied or as regulated as FDA-approved medications. And the consequences to your baby can be just as dire. You should not take a natural alternative unless you have first discussed it and had it approved by your doctor.

Herbal supplements are often not considered safe in pregnancy. Click here for a list of supplements and essential oils to avoid while pregnant[3]“Taking Medicine During Pregnancy,” Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD, WebMD, August 4, 2018, https://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/taking-medicine-during-pregnancy#1..

What about other kinds of therapies?

What if the natural alternative is not a substance you are ingesting, but rather a therapy you are employing, such as acupuncture or acupressure? There are many ways to help relieve physical symptoms that don’t mean you need to ingest a chemical. However, not all therapies are safe. Click here for a list of approved therapies, and therapies to avoid.

Just remember

Just because you are pregnant, doesn’t mean you have to suffer needlessly when a common, physical ailment occurs. However, to best protect you and baby, it’s important that you know what medicine is safe in pregnancy. And to moderate your use of medicine to what is necessary only. Your go-to source of medical information should always be your provider. But if you just don’t have a chance to chat with your provider first, we hope this has helped you feel a little better about taking that Tylenol. And we hope that headache or stomachache goes away soon.

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