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Taking Medicines during Pregnancy: Safe and Unsafe Medications

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Seema Sharma 92% (246 ratings)
MBBS, DGO, MD - Obstetrics & Gynaecology, MRCOG
Gynaecologist, Delhi  •  27 years experience
Taking Medicines during Pregnancy: Safe and Unsafe Medications

Normal pregnancy lasts for 38 to 42 weeks. However, there may be times during these weeks that you may have some physical issues such as vomiting, backache, and loose stools etc which require treatment with medicines.

Therefore, monitoring and managing these physical conditions becomes necessary to ensure a normal delivery. Management consists of both medicines and rehabilitation. Medicines are considered to be the first line of treatment; however, the health care provider needs to take care while prescribing medicines during pregnancy taking into consideration the harmful effects they can have on both – the mother and the foetus.  Medicines pass on via the placenta from the mother to the foetus. Hence, before prescribing any medicine the provider should check the possibilities of the medicine causing any congenital defect. You should avoid medicines from the time of conception till the first 10 weeks, as this is the time when the foetus is most prone to the get permanent congenital deformities. Medicines given in the later stages (after 10 weeks) may cause systemic damage. For example NSAIDs (Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) may lead to problems during labour or organ defects in the foetus.

Therefore, medicines should always be avoided during pregnancy. Still there are certain medicines, which can be taken but after consulting your physician. Let’s discuss the medicines that are safe during pregnancy.

The following is a list of medicines and their effects during pregnancy:

1. Analgesic Medicines

Paracetamol Safe
NSAIDs, such as aspirin May cause heart abnormalities in the third trimester

2. Opiates 

Codeine Effective in low doses
Hydrocodone Effective in low doses
Hydromorphone Effective in low doses

3. Anaesthetics 

Etomidate Unknown always ask your provider
Ketamine Avoid during the last trimester
Lorazepam Avoid for severe conditions, safe for short periods

4. Thrombolytics - The possible advantages of this class may balance the risk during pregnancy. Common medicines used are: Alteplase, Reteplase, Streptokinase, Urokinase.

5. Antidotes

Hydroxycobalamin antidote: cyanide Safe
Methylene blue antidote: methemoglobinemia Has a potential risk to the mother and foetus

6. Penicillins

First generation: penicillin G, benzathine penicillin, Bicillin, penicillin VK Safe
Second generation: oxacillin, dicloxacillin, nafcillin Safe

7. Cardiac agents

Adenosine Safe
Digoxin Not advised in third trimester
Lidocaine Safe

8. Diabetes: Insulin is safe to use during diabetes.

9. Antacids

Famotidine Low risk
Ranitidine Safe

10. Corticosteroids: Advised for short term use

Cetirizine Almost safe
Chlorpheniramine Safe

Always talk to your physician in case of any complication and before taking any medicine given above.

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