What medications are safe if I’m pregnant or planning to become pregnant?

A pregnant woman discusses the safety of her medication with her doctor.

“Is this medication safe?” It’s a question nearly every woman will ask at some point before or during her pregnancy. And for good reason. All medications, including vitamins and supplements, have the ability to cross the placenta. This means that anything you take while pregnant can potentially affect the health of your developing baby.

“Some medications can also impact your ability to become pregnant,” said Cady Artmayer, a registered pharmacist with Express Scripts® Pharmacy. “It’s important to discuss all of your medications with your doctor, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements.”

If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with which medications may put you or your baby at risk and which ones are generally considered to be safe. Let’s take a look.

What prescription medications are safe during pregnancy?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9 in 10 pregnant women take at least one medication during pregnancy, and 7 in 10 pregnant women take at least one prescription medication.1 Prescription medication during pregnancy can be a complicated subject for a couple of reasons:

  1. Most prescription medications haven’t been sufficiently studied in pregnant women.
  2. The decision to take prescription medications is highly personal and depends on your medical history, symptoms, and how far along you are in your pregnancy.

Research shows that certain medications have a particularly high risk of pregnancy complications — such as ACE inhibitors, Entresto®, isotretinoin, warfarin, along with certain antibiotics, anticonvulsant medications, thyroid medications, and medications that treat rheumatic conditions. These complications include birth defects, premature birth, stillbirth, and miscarriage.

Additionally, certain prescription acne medications, epilepsy medications, blood-clotting medications, and anti-inflammatory medications have been shown to affect hormones, potentially decreasing fertility.

Should I take prescription medications before or during pregnancy?

If you were taking maintenance medication before becoming pregnant, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it’s safe to continue.

“Never start or stop taking a medication without talking to your doctor first,” said Artmayer. “Depending on the medication, stopping abruptly can do more harm than good.”

Untreated diabetes or poorly controlled asthma, for example, may be more dangerous to you and your developing baby than the potential risks associated with continuing your prescription medication.

Depending on your chronic condition, your doctor or pharmacist may be able to recommend an alternative form of treatment that is safer during pregnancy.

It’s also important to let your doctor or pharmacist know if you are prescribed any new medication while you’re pregnant. They may advise you not to take that medication or offer up another medication option with fewer known pregnancy risks.

Are over-the-counter medications safe during pregnancy?

When it comes to treating uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms or certain health issues, Artmayer recommends lifestyle changes as the first line of defense.

For example, to treat nausea or vomiting, Artmayer recommends eating smaller meals, avoiding fatty foods, and avoiding tastes or smells that may trigger symptoms. To treat constipation, Artmayer recommends eating more high-fiber foods such as oatmeal, beans, nuts, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

If lifestyle changes don’t give you the relief you need, then there are over-the-counter (OTC) options that are generally considered safe depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy. Artmayer recommends asking your pharmacist for assistance in finding the right OTC medication and dose.

If you’d like to learn more about pregnancy-safe medications, the CDC provides helpful resources. Always consult your doctor or pharmacist before starting any new OTC medications.

What vitamins and supplements are safe during pregnancy?

It’s common to believe that “natural” products like vitamins, supplements, or essential oils are safe during pregnancy. However, most of these products haven’t been tested for safety in the general population, let alone in pregnant women. For example, vitamin A and concentrated forms of some essential oils are actually dangerous and can lead to serious pregnancy complications.

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, simply stick with a high-quality prenatal vitamin.

For women who experience discomforts like pain or nausea during pregnancy, Artmayer recommends alternative therapies like acupuncture, acupressure, ginger root, vitamin B6, physical therapy, or chiropractic manipulation. With properly trained specialists, all of these are proven to be safe and effective in pregnant women.

Pharmacy support whenever you need it

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, you probably have a lot of questions. At Express Scripts® Pharmacy, our team of dedicated pharmacists are available to talk to you 24/7 and are 100% focused on you and your healthcare needs.

For busy moms-to-be, Express Scripts® Pharmacy offers the convenience of home delivery for long-term medications.

Learn more about how we’re creating a simpler, better, and more personal pharmacy experience.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Research on Medicines and Pregnancy (accessed November 15, 2022): www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/meds/treatingfortwo/research.html.

Posted date: December 21, 2022

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