All medications and natural health products should be used with caution during pregnancy.
At some point during their pregnancy, most pregnant women will have to decide whether to take medication. In fact, 9 out of 10 women report taking at least one type of medication while pregnant.
Pregnant women should, however, be cautious when using medication, including over-the-counter drugs and natural products, as some can affect the baby’s development or jeopardize the pregnancy.
Is it safe to take medication during pregnancy?
Many types of medication can be taken during pregnancy. However, some increase the risk of birth defects, developmental problems, miscarriages, or premature births.
In addition, certain factors must be considered when determining if a medication is safe to take:
- Weeks of pregnancy
- Medication dose
- Other medications she’s taking
Given that so many things can affect the safety of a medication, it’s best to talk to a doctor or pharmacist to make sure it’s safe to take a particular drug, whether it’s by prescription or over the counter.
Information on websites is not always trustworthy. It’s always best to speak with a health care professional when it comes to medication and natural products.
What should you do if you’re pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant, and you have to take medication?
Many women need to consider pharmaceutical treatment while pregnant.
- Some women have chronic conditions and need to take medication to stay healthy (e.g., diabetes, epilepsy).
- Some problems may develop during pregnancy and require treatment (e.g., depression, severe nausea and vomiting).
- Some women may need medication to treat certain illnesses or relieve discomforts (e.g., headaches, nasal congestion, infections).
Whatever the reason, the first thing to do is talk to a health care professional to determine which prescription or over-the-counter medications are appropriate for your situation.
At the beginning of your pregnancy, make a list of all the medications and natural health products you’re taking and discuss them with your doctor.
If you become ill or develop uncomfortable symptoms while pregnant, don’t let your health deteriorate. Talk to your doctor. They will prescribe the appropriate medication for you.
It’s very important that you do not stop taking a medication suddenly, without talking to your doctor. In some cases, the symptoms that resurface may be more harmful than the medication.
Is it safe to take natural health products during pregnancy?
Natural health products include the following:
Doctors recommend that women who are planning to get pregnant take folic acid at least three months before conceiving and throughout the pregnancy to prevent birth defects.
Vitamins and minerals
Medicinal herbs (plants that have positive health benefits)
Probiotics (microorganisms added to certain foods, such as yogurt and cereal, that have positive health benefits)
Essential fatty acids (e.g., omega-3, -6, and -9)
Just because a product is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe. Some herbs contain medicinal substances that can cause side effects. In addition, in some products such as tablets and tinctures, the herbs can be much more concentrated than what is normally found in nature. There is little information on exposure to such concentrations during pregnancy.
What’s more, some safe products can become dangerous if consumed in excessive quantities or over an extended period. If taken with other medications, they can increase or decrease their effect, or cause dangerous side effects.
During pregnancy, it’s recommended that you check with a doctor or pharmacist before taking a natural health product.
Things to keep in mind
Some medication and natural products can pose a risk during pregnancy.
Stopping a medication suddenly can also be dangerous.
Before taking a new medication or discontinuing treatment, talk to a health care professional.
Scientific review: Alexandre Chagnon, pharmacist
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: February 2020
Photo: iStock 10039217
Please note: Hyperlinks to other websites are not updated regularly, and some may have changed since publication. If a link is no longer valid, use search engines to find the information you’re looking for.
Centre IMAGe - CHU Sainte-Justine. “Questions fréquemment posées par les patientes enceintes ou qui allaitent.” www.chusj.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Treating for Two: Medicine and Pregnancy.” www.cdc.gov
Doré, Nicole, and Danielle Le Hénaff. From Tiny Tot to Toddler: A practical guide for parents from pregnancy to age two. Quebec City, Institut national de santé publique du Québec. www.inspq.qc.ca
Ask Your Pharmacist. A website where you can ask a pharmacist your medication-related questions. askyourpharmacist.ca