Some medications, even medication prescribed to you by your health care provider before you became pregnant, are not safe to take during pregnancy.
Most of the time medicine you take will not be a problem but sometimes the drug can cause damage or birth defects in your growing baby.
Many drugs that you can buy over the internet or over-the-counter (OTC) in local stores as well as the drugs your health care provider prescribes are thought to be safe to take during pregnancy, although there are no medicines that are proven to be absolutely safe when you are pregnant. Many of these products tell you on the label if they are thought to be safe during pregnancy. If you are not sure you can take an OTC product, ask the local pharmacist or your health care provider.
Some drugs are absolutely not safe to take during pregnancy. Even drugs prescribed to you by your health care provider before you became pregnant might be harmful so make sure your health care providers know that you are pregnant and never take any drugs during pregnancy unless the medicines are given the ok by your health care provider.
Also, keep in mind that other things like caffeine and smoking as well as some herbs, minerals and vitamins and other substances can affect the growing fetus. Never use any herbal product without talking to your health care provider first. For more information on herbal remedies see "Herbs and vitamins during pregnancy" and "Herbs and vitamins to avoid during pregnancy".
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a system to rate drugs in terms of their safety during pregnancy. This system rates many over-the-counter drugs you can buy and drugs your health care provider prescribes.
The FDA system ranks drugs as:
Category A - drugs that have been tested for safety during pregnancy and have been found to be safe. This includes drugs such as folic acid, vitamin B6, and thyroid medicine in moderation, or in prescribed doses.
Category B - drugs that have been used a lot during pregnancy and do not appear to cause major birth defects or other problems. This includes drugs such as some antibiotics, acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspartame (artificial sweetener), famotidine (Pepcid), prednisone (cortisone), insulin (for diabetes), and ibuprofin (Advil, Motrin) before the third trimester. Pregnant women should not take ibuprofen during the last three months of pregnancy.
Category C - drugs that are more likely to cause problems for the mother or fetus. These drugs include prochlorperzaine (Compazine), Sudafed, fluconazole (Diflucan), and ciprofloxacin (Cipro). Some antidepressants are also included in this group.
Category D - drugs that have clear health risks for the fetus and include alcohol, lithium (used to treat manic depression), phenytoin (Dilantin), and most chemotherapy drugs to treat cancer. In some cases, chemotherapy drugs are given during pregnancy.
Category X - drugs that have been shown to cause birth defects and should never be taken during pregnancy. This includes drugs to treat skin conditions like cystic acne (Accutane) and psoriasis (Tegison or Soriatane); a sedative (thalidomide); and diethylstilbestrol or DES).
Whether or not you should continue taking medicine during pregnancy is a serious question. But, if you stop taking medicine that you need, this could harm both you and your baby. You should always consult with your health care provider about whether the benefits of taking a medication outweighs the risk for you and your baby.
Physicians' Desk Reference (PDRhealth.com): To search for a particular item, you can select from the list: Prescription Drugs A-Z, OTC Drugs A-Z, Herbal Medicines A-Z, and Nutritional Supplements A-Z.
National Institutes of Health gives prescription and over-the-counter medication information as well as information on Herbs and Supplements. Browse by clicking on the first letter of the herb or supplement:
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