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Notes on Women's Health
Notes on Women's Health

Over-the-Counter Medications During Pregnancy

over the counter medications during pregnancyAnything that a pregnant woman puts into her body has the potential to affect her baby. Diet, illicit substances, prescription drugs, and even over-the-counter (OTC) medications can all have a profound impact on the health and development of a baby. While your medical team should be aware of your pregnancy so that they do not prescribe potentially harmful medications, what about over the counter medications during pregnancy?

Pregnant women are susceptible to the same common medical issues as anyone else – colds, allergies, diarrhea, etc. Additionally, it is not uncommon for expectant mothers to encounter problems with a variety of minor complaints like heartburn, constipation and body aches. You need to know which non-prescription medications are safe for you and your baby.

You should always consult your prenatal care provider starting any medication or vitamins and supplements during pregnancy. In fact, many OB-GYN offices will provide you with a list of safe medications – just ask. That said, here are some general  guidelines for over the counter medications during pregnancy.

Pain Relievers during Pregnancy

Sometimes called analgesics or anti-inflammatory drugs, taking these over the counter medications during pregnancy will help reduce common aches, pains and  discomforts encountered during pregnancy. The go-to pain reliever for pregnant women is acetaminophen. Both generic (or store brand) acetaminophen and brand-name Tylenol are considered safe for most pregnant women as long as dosing instructions are followed.

You should avoid other common OTC painkillers like ibuprofen and naproxen due to potential pregnancy complications. Of course, you should not use any prescription painkillers during your pregnancy without clear permission and instructions from your OB-GYN.

Laxatives

Many pregnant women encounter problems with constipation at one point or another. Dietary changes can often help without the need for medications. For example, drink plenty of water and eat large portions of high-fiber vegetables and fruits.

If these efforts are not enough, you can consider gentle OTC laxatives with the blessing of your OB-GYN. Fiber supplements (like Metamucil), bisacodyl (Dulcolax), and milk of magnesia carry no known harmful side effects to pregnant women or their babies. Again, be certain you are following the dosing instructions on the label and do not exceed the recommended dosage. If you are suffering from nausea, there are also safe laxative rectal suppositories available.

Heartburn

A combination of hormonal changes and pressure from your uterus can cause stomach acids to reflux into your esophagus and just as common, stress may also contribute to this issue. There are several over the counter medications during pregnancy that may help with this discomfort, including chewable antacids such as Tums, or a liquid option like Maalox. Famotidine (Pepcid) also works well for many women.

Although some proton pump inhibitors drugs like omeprazole (Prilosec) are now available OTC, these should not be your first choice. If your heartburn is especially severe or recalcitrant to treatment, your OB-GYN may choose to put you on one of these medications, but this should not be a decision you make on your own.

Colds and Allergies

Unfortunately, pregnancy does not provide you with immunity against the common cold and seasonal or environmental allergies. The good news is that the majority of OTC cold and allergy remedies are safe to use during your pregnancy. Still, you must pay careful attention to dosing, and try to choose a medication that treats only the symptoms you are experiencing rather than an “all-in-one” remedy.

One important note – some of these medicines, like pseudoephedrine, can raise your blood pressure. Avoid these if you are having blood pressure issues. It is also a good idea to monitor your blood pressure at home while you are on these medications, even if you have not had problems with hypertension (high blood pressure) in the past.

Yeast Infections

Developing a vaginal yeast infection while you are pregnant is not necessarily a problem. However, you should bring a yeast infection – or any symptoms – to the attention of your OB-GYN right away. They may recommend an OTC cream like Monistat, or they might provide a prescription if they believe the situation warrants.

When taking any medication during pregnancy, be on the safe side. Consult your OB-GYN or family doctor, follow all dosing guidelines, and immediately notify your healthcare provider if your problem does not improve, worsens, or you notice any side effects.

About the Connecticut OBGYN Practice

Dr. John Garofalo, M.D., is an OBGYN located in Fairfield County, Connecticut, providing care for Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Weston, Rowaytan and the surrounding areas. He has more than 20 years of practice and surgical experience covering many facets of obstetrics and gynecology.

Laury Berkwitt, APRN, is a nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Laury has a passion for providing quality women’s healthcare in a safe and comfortable manner by creating a trusting patient-practitioner relationship. She has been in practice for more than 10 years, caring for women of all ages.

For more information, go to www.garofaloobgyn.com. John Garofalo, M.D., and Laury Berkwitt, APRN, can be reached for personal consultations by calling 203.803.1098.