August is National Breastfeeding Month, so let’s talk about all things pregnancy, starting with what’s safe medications to put in your body while pregnant. While many mothers are wary to take any kind of medication during pregnancy, studies have found that some are perfectly safe to you and your baby, and some may actually protect you. To help ease your mind, here are some common over-the-counter meds that are safe for most pregnant women.
One of the most common over-the-counter medicines recommended during pregnancy is baby aspirin. While doctors don’t advise taking the full dose adult aspirin as it can damage the growing fetus, taking a daily baby aspirin can help with preeclampsia (high blood pressure due to pregnancy) in the second and third trimesters. You may be at risk for preeclampsia if you already have high blood pressure, you’ve had preeclampsia in past pregnancies, you’re pregnant with more than one baby at a time, or you suffer from diabetes or kidney disease.
Tylenol / Acetaminophen
As exciting as pregnancy may be, that new person growing inside you can cause some aches and pains. Tylenol or any drug with acetaminophen as its base offers relief. Although some studies have found that use of acetaminophen during pregnancy is related to hyperactivity in children, Tylenol (both regular and extra strength) is generally considered safe and is the first painkiller recommended by doctors during pregnancy.
Aleve / Naproxen
Like all medications during pregnancy, Aleve should be used with caution and taken at or below the recommended dosage. In other words, stick with the lowest dosage you can get away with. Studies by the American Family Physician have determined naproxen-based medications to generally be safe during the first two trimesters, but advise avoiding the medication during the third trimester as it could cause premature closing of a valve in the heart related to moving air in the baby’s developing body.
Benadryl / Diphenhydramine
Both Benadryl oral medication and topical cream are considered generally safe for a pregnant woman and the growing fetus in all trimesters of pregnancy. Antihistamines are frequently taken by mothers for minor cold and flu symptoms, like coughing and congestion, and diphenhydramine can act as a mild sedative or sleep aid. Claritin is also considered safe for mothers with allergies.
Imodium / Loperamide
This antidiarrheal agent has been studied in animals and has shown no increased risk of birth defects when taken in the second and third trimester. One animal study found that use in the first trimester may lead to heart malformations, but this risk is negligible and may or may not apply to human pregnancies, meaning the medication is still considered safe. If your pregnancy symptoms include diarrhea, the best course of treatment is rest and hydration, but an OTC antidiarrheal may give you fast relief.
Maalox is used as an antacid to treat heartburn and indigestion, common symptoms during pregnancy. When used as recommended, studies have found no increased risks of birth defects in babies whose mothers took Maalox during pregnancy.
Pregnancy increases your production of the hormone progesterone, which can cause heartburn, and ranitidine (brand name Zantac) is considered a safe medication to treat it. While doctors usually recommend a diet change before trying any kind of medication for heartburn, if altering your food intake doesn’t offer relief, then an OTC drug like Zantac — which is a combination antacid and antihistamine — might help.
Despite studies showing the safety of some medications, no guarantees can be made about the effects of certain drugs on a growing fetus, and complications can arise in a pregnancy even when a mother follows doctor’s orders. Make sure to read the packaging on your medications to verify that you’re taking the recommended dose.
There are several safe OTC medications that you can use while pregnant. Before you start popping open that bottle of aspirin, though, know that doctors aren’t always pro-drug during pregnancy, and your specific medical history may bar you from hitting up the local pharmacy to find relief. Look for natural alternatives if possible, and always check with your doctor first.