Avoid these OTC drugs during pregnancy

Mothers-to-be get headaches and upset stomachs just like everyone else. But some over-the-counter (OTC) remedies pose risks to the developing fetus. Pregnant women should be extremely cautious about taking OTC or prescription medicines and all vitamins, supplements and herbals.


  • Try non drug measures. For instance, rest, fluids and chicken soup are a much safer way for pregnant women to deal with symptoms of a cold than antihistamines and decongestants.
  • Consult your healthcare provider. Don’t take anything without first discussing it with your doctor.
  • Avoid combination products. Multi-symptom cold and allergy medications typically contain ingredients from the ‘off-limits’ list. For example, fever and pain reliever acetaminophen is relatively safe but when combined with decongestant phenylephrine it is not safe to take.
  • Read labels. Ingredients such as alcohol and caffeine turn up in surprising places. A pill for headache may contain caffeine and a cough syrup alcohol.

OTC drugs to be avoided:

Aspirin: It is taken to reduce fever, pain or inflammation. Not recommended. Acetamonophen is a possible alternative.

Bismuth subsalicylate: It is taken to treat upset stomach, nausea and heartburn. Not recommended after 20 weeks. Take loperamide instead.

Brompheniramine or chlorpheniramine: These antihistamines are taken to treat allergies with symptoms like itching and sneezing. Not recommended after 36 weeks. Take loratadine or cetirizine instead.

Caffeine: Use with caution; To reduce risk of miscarriage, do not exceed 200 milligrams daily, including caffeine from coffee, tea, or soda.

Castor oil: It is taken to treat constipation. Not advised because of unacceptable risk. Consider psyllium-based fibre supplements.

Ibuprofen or naproxen: They are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used to reduce fever, pain and inflammation. Not recommended in first and third trimesters. Acetaminophen is a safer alternative.

Nicotine: Cigarettes and all other tobacco products contain nicotine. Not recommended during pregnancy. However, use of nicotine gum and patches to stop smoking may be better than continuing to smoke.

Phenylephrine and pseudo-ephedrine: These decongestants are not recommended in first trimester. Inhale steam to relieve congestion.

Source: Consumer Reports

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