Knowing what medication is safe to take in pregnancy is very important when considering over the counter and prescription medications. There will be times in your pregnancy when you simply don’t feel well – and wonder if it’s safe to take the same medication you took before you got pregnant. Life Healthcare delves a bit deeper into this topic, making sure you and your baby stay safe during pregnancy.
Why is it important to know the facts about what’s safe and what’s not?
In the late 1950s the drug ‘Thalidomide’ was released as a non-addictive sedative, which could also effectively treat morning sickness in pregnant women. It was distributed to 46 countries and what followed was a medical disaster where over 10,000 children were born with a range of severe debilitating malformations. “That was one of the most devastatingly tragic events in medical history – one that should never be repeated. However, it is rare for something like that to happen again in our day and age, where women are more informed about what’s safe and what’s not – and do question everything,” says Dr Billy Joseph Jacobs, gynaecologist and obstetrician at Life Glynnwood. “We encourage all our patients to clear the medications they were on with us – and if they are experiencing symptoms, to check with us what medications are safe to take now that they are pregnant,” he says. “The greatest risk to the baby is in the first trimester of pregnancy when all the organs are forming. Oral medication used for acne is especially dangerous then. It is best to avoid all medication in the first trimester, unless prescribed by your doctor.”
Clinical Practice Pharmacist at Life Eugene Marais Hospital Kashmiri Ganas, agrees; “During pregnancy, many medications and supplements can be passed via the placenta directly to the foetus,” she says. “Some medications and supplements can cause harm or birth defects to the unborn child, so it is of utmost importance to consult your doctor before taking any medication or supplement. The same holds true once your baby is born and if you are breastfeeding.”
Medication to avoid in pregnancy
According to Dr Jacobs, medication containing alcohol and pseudoephrine, which is found in common cold and flu preparations, as well as aspirin and anti-inflammatory agents such as Ibuprofen and Diclofenac are not safe in pregnancy and should not be taken, unless directed under the supervision of your treating doctor. “Each medication has a risk factor classification associated with it and it is on an individual basis that safety is established,” he says.
Chronic medication in pregnancy
Pharmacist Kashmiri adds that it is very important to also inform your doctor of any chronic illness that you may have. “Your doctor will then decide on the risk benefit ratio when deciding whether to continue treatment or not. Conditions that require treatment such as epilepsy and depression must be treated adequately, as failing to do so may result in a risk to mother and baby,” she says. “The doctor will review all medication taken to treat the chronic condition and establish whether it is safe to take whilst pregnant, if it is deemed to be harmful during pregnancy an alternate drug may be prescribed or collaboration with a physician may ensue.” Dr Jacobs agrees, adding that it is imperative that all medication is taken as prescribed, at the correct dose, quantity and frequency as deviation in any way may cause harm to you or your baby. “Always read the label and look for allergic reactions, expiry dates and warnings – and be wary of side effects. In addition, be careful not to mix up your medications or skip medications when you should be taking them.”
<Sidebar> Dr Jacobs and Pharmacist Kashmiri share their advice on how to alleviate some common pregnancy conditions from A to Z.
|Common Pregnancy Conditions||Safe medications and remedies||Advice:|
|Allergies||-Allergex-Loratadine-Nasal decongestant spray-Nasal steroid spray||May be used with caution in pregnancy, consultation with doctor is preferred. If allergic reactions last longer than a day or two, see your doctor.|
|Increasing fibre and fluid intake may help relieve constipation, as well as adding dried fruit, prune juice and bran to your diet.|
|Common Colds and Flu||-Salex Nasal Spray/Rinse-Prospan Cough Syrup -Paracetamol||If a respiratory infection is suspected, your doctor should be consulted.|
|Diarrhea||-Kaolin-Pectin-Imodium-Smecta -Rehidrat||Contact your doctor if diarrhea is severe, if there is blood in the stools or if symptoms continue for longer than 24 hours. Most diarrheal illness last only a day or two without treatment. It is important to replace fluids lost with a rehydration solution.|
|Fatigue||-Prenatal vitamins-Folic acid -Magnesium.||Get plenty of rest, elevate feet, and eat a well balanced diet. If the problem is persistent, contact your doctor as this may also signal low iron levels. It is also very important to take folic to prevent a condition known as spina bifida in the baby.|
|Faintness and Dizziness||-Don’t self treat.||Fainting and dizziness that is not relieved by sitting down or lying down must best be assessed by your doctor. It may be a sign of either high/low blood pressure or glucose levels which may cause harm to the unborn baby.|
|Hemorrhoids||-Anusol-Preparation H||Constipation aggravates the symptoms of hemorrhoids, so ensure a high fibre diet and increase fluid intake. Don’t delay going to the bathroom. Sitting in a warm bath may help alleviate some symptoms.|
|Headache||-Paracetamol||If pain is not alleviated, contact your doctor, as this may be a sign of elevated blood pressure. It might also be an indication of dehydration so increased fluid intake may also help. If you have a fever, contact your care provider immediately.|
|Heartburn & Indigestion||-Gaviscon-CitroSoda-Rennies-Maalox||Steer clear of foods which can exacerbate symptoms.|
|Insomnia||-Antihistamines listed above for allergies have a sedative effect.-Sleep eaze||Take a warm bath before bed, try different sleeping positions or a maternity pillow, or ask your partner to give you a massage before bedtime.|
|Muscle Strain||-Slow Mag||Slow Mag is considered safe and is especially effective for leg cramps that are common during pregnancy.Taking a warm bath may also help.|
|Nausea and Vomiting, morning sickness||-Asic-After 8 weeks pregnancy; Zofer||Identify foods that may trigger these symptoms. Starting the day off with a dry bland meal such as toast may also relieve these symptoms. Eating smaller meals more frequently. Also easily digestible and less fatty meals.|
|Rashes||-Allergies medication-Mild steroid creams||Your Pharmacist will be able to advise on a suitable topical treatment or consult with your doctor. Identify the cause, skin irritation, food allergy, contact dermatitis. Mild steroid creams for a day or two is safe.|
|Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)||-CitroSoda||Contact your doctor as a UTI may cause harm to the unborn baby. Citro Soda relieves burning only. If persistent, see a doctor.|
|Yeast infection||-Canesten Cream||Contact doctor as a Yeast infection may cause harm to the unborn baby. Use a probiotic like Interflora when recurrent.|