Pregnancy Information Medication

Healthy living is of the utmost importance for pregnant women. Anything that a woman ingests is passed into her blood and potentially transferred into the blood of the fetus. Therefore, the optimal goal is a healthy diet filled with vitamins and minerals and a lifestyle free from drugs and alcohol. But some women require prescription drugs for chronic illnesses. In these situations women should consult with their doctors about the safety of their current medications.

FDA Classification of Medications

The FDA classifies medication into five risk groups. Medications fall into one of these groups depending on its risk to the unborn fetus. Medicines in the “A” group are the safest and have been studied in humans with no known risk. The “B” group medications have been studied in animals and although they show little to no risk in animal fetuses, they have not been studied in humans. The “C” group medications are medications that have not been adequately studied or have shown some fetal risk. The “D” group medications show some fetal risk but the benefits of the medication to the mother may outweigh the risks. Finally, the “X” group medications indicate that the fetal risk is too high to maintain medication during pregnancy.

Chronic Medication Dilemma

Some women have chronic medical conditions that require an ongoing regime of medication. Health conditions like asthma, epilepsy, thyroid problems or migraine headaches require women to continue to take medication to prevent the conditions from recurring.

The primary rules for taking medication while pregnant are to discuss the medication with your doctor, be confident the benefits of the medication outweigh the risks and be aware of any negative interactions between medications.

Benefits Outweighing the Risks

Chronic medical conditions that require medication may be triggered by pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones can make these conditions more sensitive. Not taking the appropriate medication may create a higher risk for mother and baby. Asthmatics without the proper medication may suffer from decreased oxygen, which could limit oxygen to the fetus. Non-medicated epileptics may suffer from seizures, which might also limit oxygen or cause injury in an unsuspected event. For these types of illnesses, medication should be continued under the supervision of a physician.

Antidepressant Medications and Pregnancy

Few studies have been done on the effects of antidepressant medication and fetal development. Some evidence suggests that Prozac might be the cause of premature birth if taken in the last trimester. In the case of antidepressant medication, the benefits must outweigh the risks. For some women, untreated maternal depression creates more problems than taking the medication. Depression can lead to poor diet and inability to care for oneself.

Mild Conditions and Medications

For the first eight weeks of pregnancy, women should refrain from taking any over-the-counter medications. After the tenth week, some medications are considered safer than others but should be cleared by a doctor. Aspirin is not considered a safe medication during pregnancy. Aspirin’s blood thinning properties interfere with clotting and can cause problems in the fetus. For the same reasons, aspirin may complicate the delivery by increasing bleeding and lengthening clotting time.

Treating Colds and Flu

For colds or influenza, doctors recommend rest, fluids and cool mist vaporizers. If symptoms continue, using the smallest effective doses of Chlor-Trimeton, Sudafed or Actifed helps to relieve symptoms. Robitussin can be used to help control coughing. Other cold medications are not recommended.

The Safest Pain Relievers

Pain relievers like Tylenol can be used for headaches or fever, but should not exceed 650 milligrams every four hours. Drugs such as ibuprofen are not advised during pregnancy. These products are metabolized in the liver and can cross into the baby’s blood supply and eventually into the undeveloped fetal liver. For prolonged pain or fever, a doctor should be consulted.

Treating Heartburn During Pregnancy

Many pregnant women suffer from heartburn because of increased hormone levels that slow digestion. Eating smaller meals, less spicy meals, exercising and limiting carbonated drinks can help prevent some heartburn. If dietary changes don’t help, doctors recommend taking Tums, Mylanta or Maalox for the symptoms of heartburn. Pepto-Bismol or baking soda should be avoided during pregnancy. To find out if over-the-counter medications are safe during pregnancy, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Make sure they know about other medications you might be taking.

Resources

American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. (Updated 2003). Tips to remember: Asthma and pregnancy.

Beers, M. H.