While it is true that you should avoid unnecessary medicines in pregnancy, particularly in the first three months when all your baby’s vital organs are being formed, there may be times when you need to take medicine – indeed some, such as antibiotics, insulin, folic acid or drugs to treat epilepsy or thyroid conditions, may be vital to your health and your baby’s. Read on to find out what you can and can’t take.
Heartburn and indigestion are vey common in pregnancy. Before you reach for the antacid, try self-help cures, such as eating small, frequent meals, avoiding spicy foods and sleeping propped up on pillows.
What’s safe: Calcium carbonate or compounds, such as Comagaldrox. Maalox, Mucogel and Geviscon are available in pharmacy stores
What’s bad: Prescription medicines such as Cimetidine or Orneprazole. Avoid sodium bicarbonate, because it changes your body chemistry.
Vaginal thrush is up to 10 times more common when you’re pregnant.
What’s safe: Antifungal creams, such as Clotrimazole (Canestene)
What’s bad: Oral thrush remedies, such as Diffulucan
Some women find their asthma improves in pregnancy but others need more medication.
What’s safe: Inhaled reliever drugs and Steroids are hardly absorbed from the bloodstream, and so are very unlikely to harm your baby. One to two week courses of Steroid tablets are also safe.
What’s bad: Hardly any, but tell your doctor you’re pregnant, especially if you are in the first three months.
If your doctor wants to prescribe a course of antibiotics make sure she knows you are pregnant (and whether you’re allergic to any antibiotic)
What’s safe: For most people, broad-spectrum Penicillin, such as Amoxicillin or Flucloxacillin. Erythromycin isn’t known to be harmful.
What’s bad: Metronidazole, Tetracycline, Streptomycin and Coamoxiclav
Bear in mind that natural or herbal remedies are tested less rigorously than conventional medicines.
What’s safe: Herbal teas, such as ginger or lemon, can help relieve morning sickness symptoms.
What’s bad: Avoid herbal medicines, or homeopathic remedies diluted to less than 3C or 6X without getting professional advice.
Coughs and colds can make you feel very low, but rest and a bit of TLC will probably be as effective a treatment as any.
What’s safe: Avoid cough and cold remedies that contain a mixture of medications. If you have a temperature or a headache, you can take Paracetamol. A lemon and honey drink or Glycerine Pastilles can soothe a tickly cough or sore throat. For a chesty cough or blocked nose, try inhaling steam.
What’s bad: Questions have been raised over the safety of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which are found in Sudafed, and anti-histamines, found in Actifed and some other products, so it’s best to avoid these while you are pregnant.
Pregnancy hormones relax the muscles that control the flow of urine from your kidneys to your bladder and this makes urinary tract infections that bit more likely
What’s safe: Antibiotics can be taken to treat Cystitis but be sure to tell your doctor you’re pregnant. Cranberry juice is also helpful. It’s thought to contain a natural antibiotic.
What’s bad: Avoid taking any herbal or homeopathic treatment without first consulting a qualified practitioner.
If you’re a long time diabetic, really good blood sugar control is important from the moment you decided you’ll carry a baby right up to the birth. It’s also possible to develop diabetes during pregnancy (known as gestational diabetes) Diet can control this, but 10% - 30% of women need insulin. This type of diabetes usually goes away once your baby is born.
What’s safe: If you already have diabetes, your doctor or hospital will adjust your treatment and monitor you carefully.
What’s bad: Some tablets are not safe in pregnancy and you may be switched to insulin.
It is important for any one with epilepsy to consult their doctor before trying for a baby. Although the risk to your baby from anti-epileptic drugs is relatively low, the more drugs you take, the higher the risk of abnormalities.
What’s safe: With medical advice you may be able to reduce, or stop your medication for the first trimester. Alternatively, you may be switched to a safe drug. You’ll also be started on a high dose (5mg) of folic acid.
What’s bad: Don’t stop taking your medications if you find out you’re unexpectedly pregnant-keep taking it until you’ve had a consultation with your doctor. Coming off your drugs can make your epilepsy worse and put your life and your baby at risk.
Constipation is a common problem in pregnancy. Try to avoid it by drinking plenty of water and eating high-fiber food such as whole-meal bread and cereals, fresh fruits and vegetables.
What’s safe: Bulking laxatives such as Ispaghula husk (Fybogel, Isogel) and Sperculia (Normacol)
What’s bad: Stimulant laxatives such as Senna, especially in the last few weeks of pregnancy, as these can in theory, cause your uterus to start contracting.
Always check with a pharmacist before you buy over-the-counter painkillers, as some ingredients may not be suitable in pregnancy. If you can, try rest, sleep, massage, or soaking in a warm bath before you resort to the pills.
What’s safe: Paracetamol has been used for many years with no evidence of harm, although a recent study suggested that it may increase the risk of wheeziness in your baby.
What’s bad: Aspirin is best avoided, especially in the last few weeks, because there’s a risk of delayed and lengthy labor and increased blood loss. However, at low doses and with a doctor’s prescription, it may be safe. Avoid Ibuprofen and Codeine.
If you have thyroid problems, tell your careers you intend trying for a baby before you start. Pregnancy can affect thyroid levels, so you’ll need to be regularly monitored, particularly towards the end of your pregnancy, which is when thyroid levels are most likely to fall.
What’s safe: Thyroxine, which is used to treat and underactive thyroid is similar to normal hormones and shouldn’t adversely affect your baby. Medication for an overactive thyroid can affect an unborn baby so your dose will be reduced.
What’s bad: Don’t stop taking your medication unless your consultant tells you to. There is a high risk of miscarriage in pregnant women with untreated underactive thyroid.