Is Medicine Safe During Pregnancy?
I remember in particular while I was pregnant with my youngest, my pregnancy was a little difficult – from morning sickness, to colds, to headaches, to all of the not-so-fun stuff. I completely freaked out when my doctor prescribed me medication and wondered if the medicine was safe to take during pregnancy.
The truth of the matter is that approximately 9 in 10 women in the United States take medicine during pregnancy. You might need to take medicines to treat a health condition. For example, if you have asthma, epilepsy, high blood pressure, or depression, you may need to take medicines to stay healthy during pregnancy. Some untreated health conditions may actually be more harmful than the medicines used to control them.
However, what pregnant women need to be aware of is that not all medicines are safe to take during pregnancy. Some medicines may cause birth defects, pregnancy loss, premature births, infant death, or developmental disabilities. A healthcare professional can help you weigh the risks and benefits of each medicine and determine the safest treatment for you and your developing baby.
National Women’s Health Week
This week is National Women’s Health Week and I have partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) to raise awareness about the safety of medicines before and during pregnancy through this much needed Treating for Two Initiative.
The 2 most important things to do if you are pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant are to A) Start the conversation with your Healthcare Provider and B) Equip yourself with the knowledge to make informed decisions for your health.
Three things to discuss with your health care provider:
1. All medicines you take, including over-the-counter medicines, herbal and dietary supplements, and vitamins. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, it’s extremely important to talk to your health care provider before starting any medications to determine if the medicine is safe. Likewise, it’s important to talk to them before STOPPING any medication as well, as a plan will need to be in place for weaning off certain medications.
2. Best ways to keep your health condition under control. Again, this is especially important if you have a condition that does require medication, as many women need to take medicines during pregnancy to control their health conditions. In some cases, avoiding or stopping a medicine during pregnancy may be more harmful than taking that medicine. Your healthcare provider can help you determine if the medicine is safe during your pregnancy, as well as appropriate and safe doses.
3. Your personal goals for managing your health condition during pregnancy. The effects of medicine on you and your baby may depend on many factors, such as
- How much medicine you take (sometimes called the dose),
- When during the pregnancy you take the medicine,
- Other health conditions you have, and
- Other medicines you take.
Print out this conversation starter to share with family and friends!
Resources to make informed decisions
As I tell people all of the time, you have to be an advocate for your own health! Women and healthcare professionals have limited information about the safety of most medicines – especially newer medicines— in pregnancy. This is why it is important to equip yourself with enough information to help you make informed decisions. Below are some really helpful resources to check out if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, as well as to share with a loved one!
To help women make informed decisions, Treating for Two has updated its resources, including revamping its website. Visit the website to:
- Learn the basics: Learn why medicine matters in pregnancy and access guidance on how to manage health conditions in pregnancy.
- Find the latest research: Find key research findings by health condition and learn how CDC studies medicine use in pregnancy.
- Download multimedia and tools: Listen to our podcasts, watch our videos, share our infographics, and download posters and fact sheets.
Discover what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is doing to understand and communicate the safety of medicines in pregnancy and ultimately improve the health of women and babies.
If you are pregnant, talk with a healthcare professional about any medicines you have taken or are thinking of taking. You should go over all prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, herbal and dietary supplements, and vitamins. The tool is available in English and Spanish. Although no medicine is completely risk-free, a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or pharmacist, can help you make a
– 10 ways to plan for a healthy pregnancy – more quick tips and advice
Good Medicine Can Be Bad for Baby Podcast
Listen to an expert discuss why you should talk to a healthcare professional about the medicines you take during pregnancy and whether or not the medicine is safe during pregnancy.
An online database that provides information about specific medicines, ways they might affect you or your baby, and potential alternatives to consider after pregnancy. Information in this database can help guide the conversation with your healthcare professional about managing your health condition while breastfeeding.
Be Proactive – Here are ways you can help Treating for Two
Pregnant women usually are not included in studies to determine the safety of medicines because of the possible risks to the developing baby. As a result, women and healthcare professionals have limited information about the safety of most medicines – especially newer medicines— in pregnancy.
Treating for Two and its partners are always gathering new information on medicines taken during pregnancy and how medicines might affect the pregnancy. However, since pregnant women usually are not included in studies to determine the safety of medicines because of the possible risks to the developing baby, this leaves healthcare professionals with limited information about the safety of most medicines in pregnancy.
How you can help
You can help improve the evidence on medicines and pregnancy by doing the following:
- Report suspected problems. You can report suspected problems with medicines directly to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) MedWatch Program.
- Enroll in a pregnancy registry. Pregnancy registries are systems for tracking outcomes in pregnant women who take a particular medicine. After these women give birth, researchers compare the health of their babies with the babies of women who did not take the medicine. Pregnancy registries are a useful way to study the effects of a particular medicine and gather health information during pregnancy and after delivery. For a list of current pregnancy registries and how to enroll, visit the FDA Pregnancy Registry website.
- Sign up for a research study. Help researchers find answers about the safety of medicines during pregnancy by signing up for a MotherToBaby Pregnancy Study. If you join a study, you will not be asked to take any medicines or vaccines or change your routine. To see if you are eligible, visit the website or call (877) 311-8972 (Toll-Free).
This post was funded under a grant to the March of Dimes Foundation from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Birth Defect and Developmental Disabilities and the Office for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support.