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Which Medications are Safe to Use During Pregnancy

Being pregnant comes with a lot of joy, but it can also come with a lot of aches, pains, and recurring symptoms. Because your baby is so small and because she absorbs everything that goes into your body while you’re pregnant, it’s important only to take medications that are known to be safe for developing babies. Here’s a list of common pregnancy symptoms and which medications are safe to take for them. 

Heartburn and Indigestion

Heartburn during pregnancy is caused mainly by progesterone. This vital pregnancy hormone causes muscles to loosen, including the lower esophageal valve, which keeps your stomach’s content where it belongs. Combined with progesterone’s slowing of digestion and a growing uterus pressing on your stomach, you’re primed for acid reflux. But don’t go reaching for the Pepto just yet. Some medications can be harmful to your baby, especially in the first trimester when his organs are developing

The first option for managing heartburn is reducing its causes. Avoid acidic, spicy or fatty foods. Try eating small meals and chewing more thoroughly, as well as not eating 2 hours before bedtime. If these changes do not relieve symptoms, you may need some medication. 

Can I take Tums during pregnancy? 

YES! According to the American Pregnancy Association, Tums are safe to take while pregnant. They contain calcium, which many pregnant women need more of, and have no negative side effects. Just be sure to take them 2 hours apart from taking an iron supplement, as calcium can interfere with iron absorption. BONUS: Tums also help reduce charlie horses and other muscle cramps if you also suffer from that unfortunate pregnancy symptom. 

Can I take Pepto Bismol during pregnancy?

NO! Most medications have not been studied for use in pregnant women because no one wants to volunteer to give their baby possible complications. Pepto Bismol has not specifically been studied for use in pregnant women, but some of its properties should give you pause. Pepto-Bismol is a compound called bismuth subsalicylate, and subsalicylate is an anti-inflammatory with effects related to bleeding. It is not recommended for use in pregnant women by the FDA.

Can I take omeprazole during pregnancy?

YES! Omeprazole, commonly known as Prilosec, is safe to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Omeprazole reduces the amount of stomach acid your stomach makes, which can help with heartburn. Omeprazole should only be taken temporarily, and it is best to manage heartburn symptoms with lifestyle changes first and medication only as a last resort.

Other Alternatives

Be aware that there is also such a thing as low stomach acid. Known as hypochlorhydria, low stomach acid can cause many problems, including heartburn, gas and bloating, hair loss, and weak, brittle nails. Extended use of acid reducers like omeprazole and antacids like Tums can cause low stomach acid, as can frequent use of NSAIDS like Ibuprofen. 

If you think you may have low stomach acid, talk to your doctor. You can also try treating it naturally, with apple cider vinegar (ACV). Mix one tablespoon ACV with one tablespoon lemon juice, 2 dashes of ground ginger, and 16 ounces of water. Microwave for one minute and 15-30 seconds, then stir in one tablespoon of honey. Drink once or twice a day. 

Remember that ACV can erode tooth enamel if taken undiluted, and that you should not take more than 2 tablespoons of ACV a day. Also, if you take ACV while pregnant, consider using a pasteurized version. Most proponents of drinking ACV will suggest the unpasteurized version because of its probiotic properties. However, it may be unsafe for pregnant women to consume unpasteurized foods. Some pregnant women have taken unpasteurized ACV without issue. You can decide what type of vinegar you feel safe consuming.

Constipation

Constipation is common in pregnant women. Progesterone relaxes your intestinal muscles, which means food and waste move more slowly than usual. This can lead to constipation, which is very uncomfortable. Many pregnant women are also anemic, or iron deficient, and iron supplements can add to constipation problems. Increased fiber can help ease constipation, as can increased exercise. It may also help to get iron from natural food sources instead of a supplement.   

Can I take Colace during pregnancy? 

YES! Though it is best to address constipation by first making lifestyle changes to relieve symptoms, it may become necessary to use some sort of medication to get things moving. Colace is an over-the-counter drug used for short-term relief of occasional constipation. It is safe for use during both pregnancy and breastfeeding. Colace is considered a stool softener, and is available in capsules, soft gels and 2-in-1 tablets that also contain a laxative. Talk with your doctor before taking these medications. 

Can I take milk of magnesia during pregnancy?

YES! Milk of Magnesia is a mild laxative that is considered safe for use by pregnant women. Is it a liquid saline laxative, and is fast-acting, producing a bowel movement between 30 minutes and 6 hours after it’s taken. It is only indicated for short-term relief, however, so talk with your doctor if you have recurring constipation. You will likely need to make some of the above-listed changes to relieve persistent constipation.

Remember that if you take a stool softener, a laxative, or increase your fiber intake, you’ll need to increase your water intake as well to allow those measures to work to resolve your constipation. A daily smoothie made of spinach, water, and high-fiber fruits such as berries may be just what you need to loosen hard stools. Exercise also helps get things moving. Try gentle movement such as walking, water aerobics or prenatal yoga.  

Nausea

Most pregnant women suffer from nausea at some point during their pregnancy. Some feel nauseated and never vomit, others vomit multiple times per day. Some are nauseated for the first trimester, others are nauseated until they give birth. There are things you can do to alleviate the nausea, such as snacking often and choosing bland foods rather than spicy or fatty ones. Many women find ginger helpful, or you can try these lollipops that can help soothe unhappy tummies.  

Can I take Phenergan during pregnancy? 

NO! Phenergan is the brand name for promethazine, a drug used to treat nausea, vomiting, motion sickness and allergies. It is not recommended for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It has been linked with slowed breathing in newborn babies, and passes through breastmilk. Although it is possible that some doctors may recommend it in the first trimester, the manufacturer recommends against taking it while pregnant. That’s good enough for me!

What Should I Take for Nausea During Pregnancy?

Zofran 

Zofran is a commonly prescribed medication used to treat nausea and vomiting in pregnant women. Zofran’s FDA-approved use is for nausea caused by chemotherapy and surgery, and its use for nausea caused by pregnancy is considered off-label. Some studies suggest there is a small (0.03%) increase in chance for cleft palate and heart defects when Zofran is used in the first trimester. 

Diclegis and Bonjesta

Both Diclegis and Bonjesta are FDA-approved for treatment of nausea during pregnancy. Their active ingredients are doxylamine (known as Unisom) and vitamin B6. Neither is approved for use with hyperemesis gravidarum, or severe nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, which often requires hospitalization. Given that the active ingredients in these medications have been used for nausea in pregnant women for the past 60 years, it makes sense to combine their powers for improved relief. Remember that lifestyle changes are the best way to tackle nausea, but if medication is needed, one of these two is the way to go. 

Nasal Congestion

Sinus pressure and nasal congestion can be caused by many things.What treatment you seek will depend on what is causing your symptoms. Because the symptoms of many conditions can be similar or identical, it can be hard to know what is causing a stuffy nose and sinus pressure. If you have pregnancy rhinitis, you’ll have congestion that worsens when you lie down, which can disrupt sleep. This condition can also lead to sinusitis, an infection of the sinuses. Pregnancy rhinitis can be worsened by over-the-counter nasal decongestants, so be careful before reaching for something OTC. Try drinking extra fluids, using a humidifier, and sleeping with your head raised.  

Can I use Flonase during pregnancy? 

YES! If your congestion is accompanied by sneezing and itchy eyes, it’s likely caused by allergies. There are several safe options for pregnant women with allergies. You can use Flonase, an intranasal steroid spray designed to treat allergies. You can also try Nasonex, another similar spray, or certain pill antihistamines, including loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec).

Can I use Sudafed during pregnancy?

YES! If your congestion includes painful swelling, a cough and sore throat, fatigue and a light fever, you may have sinusitis caused by a cold. Sudafed and other medications that contain the active ingredient pseudoephedrine are considered safe for women who do not have high blood pressure. Ask your doctor what she recommends, as in some cases Note that Sudafed is used off label to dry up breast milk and it also may not be recommended for use in the first trimester. 

Herbal Teas and Pregnancy

Many women give up caffeine while pregnant. If you’re laying off the coffee and tea, beware which herbal tea you reach for as a substitute. Not all teas are safe for pregnant women.

Can I drink hibiscus tea during pregnancy?

NO! Hibiscus tea is normally a great choice, as it can reduce blood pressure and support weight loss. It may even prevent cancer. But it has some side effects that make it potentially dangerous for pregnant women. Studies of pregnant rats showed that hibiscus can cause delayed puberty and risk of obesity in rat offspring.Though a similar study has not been done on humans, hibiscus is nevertheless not considered safe for pregnant women. It has also been shown to encourage menstruation, which could lead to bleeding and even miscarriage. Though it is largely unstudied, this evidence is enough to warn most women away from hibiscus in pregnancy. Also be on the lookout for hibiscus in herbal tea blends.  

Can I drink rooibos tea during pregnancy?

YES! Rooibos is a caffeine-free herbal tea popular for its health benefits, which include having a high level of antioxidants and possibly lowering cholesterol. It is considered safe to drink while pregnant, and could provide you with a good caffeine-free alternative to black or green tea or coffee. Keep in mind that it is fermented, however, which gives it its red-brown color. The non-fermented version is green and tastes much grassier.  

Safety of Other Drugs During Pregnancy

Can I take Valtrex during pregnancy?

YES! Valtrex is an antiviral medication used to treat genital herpes, and is considered safe for use while pregnant. 

Can I take amoxicillin during pregnancy?

YES! Amoxicillin is an antibiotic in the penicillin family, and is safe for use in pregnancy

Can I take Ibuprofen during pregnancy?

NO! Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen is not recommended during pregnancy, especially during the last 20 weeks. They can potentially harm your baby’s developing kidneys. Reach for acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead.

Can I take probiotics during pregnancy?

YES! Probiotics promote gut health! They are safe to take during pregnancy, and there are many reasons to include them in your daily regimen. 

Can I consume aspartame during pregnancy?

YES! The FDA has approved aspartame for use by all people, including pregnant women. Despite the endorsement by the FDA and WHO, many studies still show that aspartame is not a healthy choice in general, whether you are pregnant or not.  

Can I use Spironolactone during pregnancy?

NO! Spironolactone is a medicine used to treat low blood pressure. It is also used to treat severe acne, although this is considered an off-label usage. It is not safe to use while pregnant, as it can affect the baby. It is also secreted in breast milk. In cases such as this, the risks to the baby of taking the medicine are weighed against the risks to the mother of not taking it.

Can I take melatonin during pregnancy?

MAYBE? The truth is, no one knows for sure. Melatonin is naturally produced in the body, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to add more, especially when pregnant. Talk to your doctor if you need help falling or staying asleep.







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