Should I Avoid Over the Counter Medicines Now That I’m Pregnant?

Pregnancy is a time of many changes for your body, and one of those is what you can put into your body. Medications taken during pregnancy can sometimes result in birth defects, complications for the mother, low birth weight for the baby, and other significant health issues for both mother and child. Your healthcare provider should discuss with you any prescription medication needs and decisions during pregnancy, but don’t forget to talk with him or her about any use over the counter medications (OTC) for pregnant women that should be avoided.

What is an over the counter medication?

Over the counter medications, also known as OTCs, include more than the obvious headache and cold medicines. They include such things as:

  • Pain relievers
  • Allergy medications
  • Dietary pills and supplements (even those shakes)
  • Some teas
  • Herbal medications
  • Topical ointments – they are absorbed through the skin and circulate through the bloodstream
  • Vitamins

If you have any questions or concerns about a product that may contain a substance harmful to you or your unborn baby, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor. Many pharmacists can also provide information about the products on their shelves and the risks they pose.

Which Over the Counter Medications Should I Avoid?

There are some medications that have documented histories of causing severe pregnancy complications, including fetal death and birth defects. Some of these include:

  • Aspirin
  • Bismuth subsalicylate (found in products for indigestion)
  • Brompheniramine (found in some cold medications)
  • Castor oil
  • Chlorpheniramine (found in allergy and cold medicines)
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen
  • Pseudoephedrine (found in cold and sinus medications)
  • Large doses of Vitamin A
  • St. Johns Wort (oral supplement)

Which Over the Counter Medications Are Safe to Take?

Image Courtesy of iosphere /

Image Courtesy of iosphere /

The most important thing to remember is that no medication is 100% safe, as there are not conclusive enough studies done to completely rule out side effects and consequences of taking them during pregnancy. Remember, too, that medications that you apply topically are not always safe as they can be absorbed into your body. Always talk with your doctor before using any OTC medication. In general, these are some OTC medications that are considered relatively safe.

  • Antacids for heartburn
  • Guaifenesin and Dectromethorphan for colds and congestion
  • Cough drops and lemon drops for sore throats and mild coughs
  • Acetaminophen
  • Saline nasal drops and sprays for allergy and dry membrane relief
  • Loratadine and Diphenhydramine for allergy relief
  • Psylluim, Polycarbophil, and Methylcellulose for digestive and bowel issues
  • Miconazole, Terbinafine, and Tioconazole for fungal infections, including yeast infections
  • Hydrocortisone, Benadryl cream, and Caladryl lotion for rashes and itching
  • Bacitracin, Neosporin, and Polysporin for minor cuts and scrapes

With any medication you take during pregnancy, the effects it has on your unborn child will be determined by several factors:

  • The duration you took the medicine
  • The quantity of the medication taken
  • The time during your pregnancy when you used the medication
  • Any food and drug interactions that might occur
  • Your personal health conditions

How Else Can I Find Relief?

While it may seem like there are too many things to worry about when it comes to medications during pregnancy, the best thing you can do is talk with your healthcare provider to find options that work for you. Besides medications, you might find other options that can alleviate your symptoms while protecting you and your baby from side effects.

  • Chiropractic care for pain relief and other conditions
  • Gentle exercises like yoga for pain muscle pain prevention
  • Acupuncture

Keep in mind that once you deliver your baby that there are still medication considerations to be made if you plan on breastfeeding. Medications can be passed along in your breast milk and cause problems for your newborn.

[Featured Image Courtesy of Grant Cochrane /]
Dr. Gareth Forde

About Dr. Gareth Forde

An obstetrician-gynecologist, a clinical professor, a researcher, and a father of five—and he delivered them all! He speaks and publishes extensively on maternal and child health issues, where he emphasizes the role of a healthy maternal lifestyle, good nutrition, and breastfeeding on infant development. He chose the field of obstetrics because it is a celebration of life, a happy and exciting profession. “Children are a blessing and they bring joy and laughter to the world,” he says. “I cherish my work, as a doctor and a dad.” The study of genetic imprinting is a major focus of both Dr. Forde’s research and medical practice. This looks at what happens in the womb, how the genes a baby inherits are expressed (turned on and off), and how this influences the child’s health after birth. “This field holds great promise, shedding light on many unsolved mysteries in health and disease from infancy to adulthood,” he adds. Dr. Forde grew up in London, England and Orlando, Florida. He received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School and is currently pursuing a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the University of California, Irvine. Prior to this, he practiced with Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners, a consortium of Saint Mary’s Health Care, Spectrum Health, Grand Valley State University, and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine—where he was a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology. He also has a master’s in molecular and cellular biology from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University; a Ph.D. in environmental science (computational chemistry) from Jackson State University; and a post-doctoral fellowship in biophysics from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York.”