August 2021

Managing Your Medicines During Pregnancy

All medicines have certain risks and benefits, but some aren’t safe to use when you’re pregnant. And each woman’s situation is different. Before you start—or stop—taking any over-the-counter, herbal, or prescription medicine, it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider.

Sometimes, the benefits outweigh the risks. For example, a provider may prescribe an antibiotic if a pregnant woman has a urinary tract infection. Without an antibiotic, they risk developing a kidney infection, which could cause preterm labor.

Or, a woman may need medicine to manage a long-term health condition such as diabetes. Not using medicine you need could be more harmful than taking it. Another example is a woman with asthma. If they stop using their medicines, the baby may not get enough oxygen.

On the flip side, some medicines may pose too great a risk. Providers agree that pregnant women should never take the oral acne medicine isotretinoin because it can lead to birth defects and miscarriage.

Before and during your first trimester

Take a vitamin supplement with 400 micrograms of folic acid. Folic acid can help protect your body from a type of birth defect that affects the brain and spine. Research shows that up to 70% of these birth defects can be prevented if a woman gets the recommended amount of folic acid before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy.

When you become pregnant, your healthcare provider may recommend a special vitamin just for pregnant women.

Make sure you also get 27 milligrams of iron each day. That’s nearly 10 milligrams more than other women need. Iron helps your body make the extra blood it needs to support both you and the baby.

In your second and third trimesters

About 8% of pregnant women develop high blood pressure—many during or after their second trimester. However, some types of medicine to treat blood pressure are not safe for the baby. You can explore other treatment options with your provider.

In addition, once you reach 20 weeks of pregnancy, it’s wise to avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen. These can lead to serious kidney problems that affect the baby’s development. Use acetaminophen instead if you need to treat pain and fever.

Antidepressants and pregnancy

Studies offer conflicting evidence about whether antidepressants called SSRIs are linked to certain birth defects. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises women who are pregnant to talk with their healthcare provider to decide if they should stay on the medicine or switch to different treatment.

Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Susan Shaw, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2021
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