Taking Medications While Pregnant


As a general rule, use as few medicines as possible during your pregnancy. Many expectant-mothers understand the potency and riskiness of prescription medications, but even over-the-counter and herbal remedies may contain substances that are harmful to your developing baby. (Just because something is labeled "Natural," does not necessarily make it safe for pregnancy.) Before ingesting anything, let your doctor or nurse-midwife know about any prescription or non-prescription remedies that interest you.

During pregnancy, your doctor or nurse-midwife may approve the use of a few over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol and generic), pseudoephedrine (Sudafed® and generic), plain Robitussin® (or generic equivalent for coughs), and liquid antacids (Maalox®, Mylanta® and others) for heartburn. It is impossible to be too safe during this time, so please ask your doctor before you take anything!

During the first trimester - a crucial time of development for your baby - please pay special attention to all medications. Whether by prescription or over-the counter, any medication you may have taken prior to becoming pregnant needs to be disclosed to your doctor or nurse-midwife. Only doctors and nurse-midwives are qualified to weigh the risks and benefits of continuing such medications during pregnancy. As in all Doctor-Patient relationships, it is impossible to provide safe, effective care to a person who is dishonest with the care-provider.

Medications Considered to be Safe For Women

There are no medications in existence that are proven to be 100% safe for a pregnant woman. While a handful of medications are generally "thought to be safe" to take during pregnancy, hundreds are known to be hazardous for mom and/or baby...and still hundreds more where the effects are unknown. Try to avoid taking any over-the-counter medications unless it is absolutely necessary, and only after carefully reading the label for warnings directed at pregnant women.

Sickness & Relief

Below is a list of common illnesses & ailments that are experienced during pregnancy, along with the medications which your doctor or nurse-midwife will likely consider to be safe. (That is to say, medications which bring-about no known harmful effects during pregnancy when taken according to the directions on the label.) If you are curious about the safety of any medications that isn't included below, please contact your doctor or nurse-midwife.

For Morning Sickness (nausea and vomiting) during pregnancy, it is safe to use the following medications:

  • Vitamin B6 25 mg., 1 or 2 tablets, 3-times a day
  • An Antiemetic (Fructose, dextrose, and phosphoric acid combined. Emetrol is one brand available in the U.S.) If you are a diabetic, consult your physician. This medicine is available without a prescription; however, your doctor or nurse-midwife may have special instructions on the proper use and dose for your medical problem.

Some mothers find that accupressure bands,which are available at drug stores,are helpful with nausea. If you are experiencing nausea and vomiting, try avoiding fatty, rich, spicy, acidic or fried foods that can irritate your stomach. Remember that dry toast and crackers are usually well tolerated. When experiencing nausea and/or vomiting in the morning, try eating 15-20 crackers before you get out of bed. Then, rest in bed for another 30-minutes before getting up. It may also be helpful to eat smaller meals and snacks throughout the day, to prevent your stomach from becoming empty. Ginger ale made with real ginger can be a natural aid throughout the day, though it isn't always easy to find on grocery store-shelves. A regular ginger-ale-flavored soda can also be helpful.

Sometimes, prenatal vitamins can upset the stomach. Some women have overcome this by breaking them in-half, and swallowing one-half before bedtime, and the other-half in the morning. To combat any dehydration that can occur from vomiting, drink extra fluids. Water and carbohydrate/electrolyte solutions (such as Gatorade) are best. Serving at room-temperature is advised.

Important Note: If your symptoms persist with no improvement, call your doctor or nurse midwife immediately.


The following list of medications are generally considered safe to ingest during pregnancy, so long as the directions on the label are adhered-to:

  • Plain Loratadine (an antihistamine such as Claritin) that does not contain pseudoephedrine
  • Plain Diphenhydramine (an antihistamine such as Benadryl)
  • Plain Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol)

Colds & Coughs

If you have cold symptoms, the following medications are considered to be safe to take during pregnancy when taken according to the directions on the label:

  • Plain Guaifenesin (an expectorant, such as the Robitussin brand)
  • HypertonicNasal Spray (such as the Ocean brand) - use as often as needed
  • Vapor Rub (such as Vicks)
  • Throat Lozenges for a sore throat (such as Halls brand)
  • Plain Acetaminphen (such as the Tylenol brand)

It is helpful to drink plenty of liquids (10 glasses a day) when you have a cold. Hot chicken soup or lemonade may also help you to feel better. Just put lemonade in microwave-safe cup and heat for 60 seconds or so. What's even better, is to make homemade lemonade by squeezing 6 lemons and mixing with 3 tablespoons of honey...and then heating in the microwave.

For the sniffles or nasal stuffiness, try using non-medicated Nasal Strips (such as the Breathe Right brand), especially at bedtime. A small amount of Vapor Rub under your nose at night may also be helpful, and an actual water vaporizer can do wonders! To ease the discomfort of a sore throat, gargle with a mild, warm salt and water solution several times a day. Modern medicine may never match the effectiveness of this homemade remedy! When suffering from a cold or a cold with cough, make certain to check your temperature at least 3-times a day. If it is higher than 100.5, call your doctor or nurse-midwife immediately.

Important Note: If any Cold-related symptoms persist, call your doctor or nurse midwife.


For constipation, it is generally considered safe to take the following medications (in adherence to the directions as they appear on the label):

  • A SmartFiber product (such as the Citrucel brand)
  • A psyllium fiber product (such as the Metamucil brand)
  • A stool softner (such as the Colace brand)
  • Milk of Magnesia

If constipation is a problem for you, you may wish to make certain that you are getting enough fiber in your diet in the form of grains, fresh fruits and fresh vegetables and that you are drinking plenty of water (10 glasses/day). Exercise will also help with constipation. Remember if you are frequently constipated and having to strain to pass stools, you are more apt to develop hemorrhoids.


It is safe to take the following medication during your pregnancy (with adherence to the directions as they appear on the label):

  • Acetaminophen (such as the Tylenol brand)
  • Also try putting a cold compress on your forehead or the back of your neck. Meditation, Yoga and/or breathing exercises alleviate stress and promote relaxation.
  • Low blood-sugar, a frequent contributor to the headache, can be mitigated by eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.
  • As always during your pregnancy, get plenty of rest during the daytime and nighttime.

The Flu

Drinking plenty of fluids (10 glasses/day) will defend against becoming dehydrated from the vomiting and/or diarrhea that commonly accompany the Flu. Again, water and Gatorade (at room temperature) are recommended.

When afflicted with the Flu, make certain to check your temperature at least 3 times a day. If it is higher than 100.5, call your doctor or nurse-midwife immediately.

The following medications are considered safe to take during pregnancy when taken with adherence to the directions as they appear on the label:

  • Plain Tylenol (for fever, aches and pains)
  • Emetrol (for vomiting)

Once the vomiting and/or diarrhea subside, gradually increase your diet as tolerable. Eat bland foods such as plain dry toast, white rice, applesauce and bananas. Avoid all dairy products for 2 or 3 days.

If flu symptoms persist, call your doctor or nurse midwife.


It is generally considered safe to take the following medications with adherence to the directions on the label:

  • Tums
  • Maalox
  • Mylanta
  • Pepcid

It is also eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, and to abstain from eating within 2-3 hours of sleeping. You may also try sleeping with your head propped up higher than your stomach.


It is safe to use the following medications if you develop hemorrhoids after becoming pregnant:

  • Preparation H
  • Tucks
  • Witch Hazel
  • Anusol

Sitting in a tub of warm water can relieve some of the discomfort from hemorrhoids.

Important Note: Constipation is a frequent cause of hemorrhoids, in addition to irritating hemorrhoids that already exist. If this is a problem for you, please see the section labeled "Constipation," above, and follow the recommendations.

First Aid Ointments

For cuts, scrapes, abrasions and insect bites:

During pregnancy you may use the following ointments safely:

  • Bacitracin
  • Neosporin

Itchy Skin & Rashes

For rashes developed during pregnancy, it is safe to use the following medications (with adherence to the directions as they appear on the label):

  • Caladryl lotion or cream
  • Hydrocortisone cream or ointment
  • Benadryl cream

In the treatment of dry or itchy skin, it is important to be certain you are drinking plenty of water. You might also try taking an oatmeal bath (Aveeno is a popular brand) to help with the itchiness.

Natural, Homeopathic & Alternative Therapies

Today, natural therapies and products are possibly being applied safely all over the world to alleviate everything from nausea and backaches to heartburn and hemorrhoids. Our concern is that many of these products have not been tested for their effectiveness and safety as these standards pertain to use by pregnant women. Please check with your doctor or nurse-midwife before taking any alternative products, or engaging in any alternative therapies.

Should you ever have doubt regarding the safety of a medication or substance, whether traditional or alternative, please contact your doctor or nurse-midwife prior to taking the medication or herb.

Cut Down on Caffeine

Small to moderate use of caffeine is probably OK, but remember that caffeine speeds up your central nervous system. It also causes you to go to the bathroom more often, so your body loses vitamins and nutrients before it can use them. A moderate amount would be two or three 6-ounce cups of coffee or tea, or two cans of caffeinated soda. It is best if you can space out your caffeine intake during the day.

Strike the Saccharin

Avoid the use of Saccharin, as it may cause problems in a baby's development. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends Aspartame sweeteners (Nutrasweet® or Equal®) as safe alternatives. However, use these sugar substitutes only in moderation. Limit two servings a day. Sucralose (Splenda®) is generally believed to be safe, and does not need to be limited.