You have a nasty cold, but you’re also pregnant, so you’re wondering how to get relief? Here is good advice: Don’t take any medication before talking to a health professional.
When it comes to medication and pregnancy, the golden rule is simple: never self-medicate! Taking medication during pregnancy exposes babies to substances that can be harmful for their development. You should always consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking any kind of drug.
Over-the-counter = risk
Certain over-the-counter drugs present a health risk for unborn babies. For example, pregnant women should never take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, after 28 weeks.
NSAIDs can lead to the premature closure of a tiny arterial tube in the baby and cause major pulmonary and cardiac problems. Many of the cold and flu pills and syrups available over the counter may contain NSAIDs. Some are also formulated with pseudoephedrine, a decongestant that should be avoided during the first trimester, since it has been linked to a minor risk of a major birth defect of the abdomen. Before taking such drugs, be sure to talk to your pharmacist. If you want relief for nasal congestion, a safe alternative that works is saline water in a spray.
What do I do if I get sick?
While you should exercise care and caution, you do not need to avoid all forms of treatment. For instance, some antibiotics are safe for use to treat infections in pregnant women. In fact, urinary tract infections need to be taken care of, since they are associated with premature labour and low birth weight.
For fever and headaches, acetaminophen is a good option. If this does not work, codeine can be used on the advice of a physician. In all cases, consult your pharmacist or doctor for solutions that will be right for you and your baby.
Managing chronic conditions during pregnancy
Do you suffer from epilepsy, hypertension, diabetes or asthma? Some treatments can be harmful to unborn babies. Certain epilepsy medications, for example, can cause serious birth defects, while drugs to treat hypertension can lead to kidney damage in unborn babies. But you should never stop taking your medication during pregnancy, since poorly controlled health conditions can also lead to problems. Unmanaged diabetes can cause birth defects, while hypertension can trigger various issues, such as low birth weight.
If you have a chronic health problem, you need to see your doctor as soon as you start trying to conceive. He or she will make the necessary adjustments to your treatment.
To learn more:
Enceinte : y a-t-il un risque à prendre des analgésiques?, Protégez-Vous, June 2011 (In French only)
Petite pilule contre gros bébés…, Protégez-Vous, May 2011 (In French only)
Une grossesse en santé, Protégez-Vous, August 2012 (In French only)
Mieux manger pour le plaisir et la santé : la femme enceinte, Protégez-Vous, February 2012 (In French only)
Les produits de santé naturels sont-ils sans danger pendant la grossesse?, Protégez-Vous, October 2011. (In French only)