What should I know about taking medications safely during pregnancy?

Although some medicines are considered safe during pregnancy, the effects of other medicines on your unborn baby are unknown. Certain medicines can be most harmful to a developing baby when taken during the first three months of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant.

Illegal drugs

Street drugs are not good for your health, but they are even worse for your unborn baby's health, since drugs are passed to your baby while you are pregnant. Illegal drugs such as angel dust, cocaine, crack, heroin, LSD, marijuana, and speed increase the chance that your baby is born with addictions or serious health problems, or is born prematurely or underweight at birth. If you have been thinking about quitting drugs, now is the time to do it.

Let your healthcare provider (e.g., physician, pharmacist) know if you have ever used illegal drugs or if you have an addiction to any drugs so he or she can minimize the risk to your baby. You may also call 1.800.662.4357 (National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Service) for more information.

Prescription medicine guidelines

If you were taking prescription medicines before you became pregnant, please ask your healthcare provider about the safety of continuing these medicines as soon as you find out that you are pregnant.

Your healthcare provider will weigh the benefit to you and the risk to your baby when making his or her recommendation about a particular medicine. With some medicines, the risk of not taking them might be more serious than the potential risk associated with taking them.

For example, if you have a urinary tract infection, your healthcare provider might prescribe an antibiotic. If the urinary tract infection is not treated, it could cause long-term problems for both the mother and her baby.

If you are prescribed any new medicine, please inform your healthcare provider that you are pregnant. Be sure to discuss the risks and benefits of the newly prescribed medicine with your health care provider.

Non-prescription (over-the-counter) medicine guidelines

Prenatal vitamins, now available without a prescription, are safe and recommended to take during pregnancy. Ask your healthcare provider about the safety of taking other vitamins, herbal remedies, and supplements during pregnancy. Most herbal preparations and supplements have not been proven to be safe when taken during pregnancy. Generally, you should not take any over-the-counter medicine unless it is necessary.

The following medicines and home remedies have no known harmful effects during pregnancy when taken according to the package directions. If you want to know about the safety of any other medicine not listed here, please contact your healthcare provider.

*Please note: No drug can be considered 100% safe to use during pregnancy.

Type of Remedy: Allergy

Safe Medications to Take During Pregnancy

  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®)
  • Loratidine (Claritin®)
  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec®)

Type of Remedy: Cold and Flu

Safe Medications to Take During Pregnancy

  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)*
  • Dextromethorphan (Robitussin®)*
  • Guaifenesin (Mucinex® [plain]) *
  • Vicks Vapor Rub® mentholated cream
  • Mentholated or non-mentholated cough drops
  • (Sugar-free cough drops for gestational diabetes should not contain blends of herbs or aspartame)
  • Pseudoephedrine ([Sudafed®] after 1st trimester)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol®)*
  • Saline nasal drops or spray
  • Warm salt/water gargle

*Note: Do not take the "SA" (Sustained Action) form of these drugs or the "Multi-Symptom" form of these drugs. Do not use Nyquil® due to its high alcohol content.

Type of Remedy: Diarrhea

Safe Medications to Take During Pregnancy

  • Loperamide ([Imodium®] after 1st trimester, for 24 hours only)

Type of Remedy: Constipation

Safe Medications to Take During Pregnancy

  • Methylcellulose fiber (Citrucel®)
  • Docusate (Colace®)
  • psyllium (Fiberall®, Metamucil®)
  • polycarbophil (FiberCon®)
  • polyethylene glycol (MiraLAX®)*

*Occasional use only

Type of Remedy: First Aid Ointment

Safe Medications to Take During Pregnancy

  • Bacitracin
  • Neomycin/polymyxin B/bacitracin (Neosporin®)

Type of Remedy: Headache

Safe Medications to Take During Pregnancy

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Type of Remedy: Heartburn

Safe Medications to Take During Pregnancy

  • Aluminum hydroxide/magnesium carbonate (Gaviscon®)*
  • Famotidine (Pepcid AC®)
  • Aluminum hydroxide/magnesium hydroxide (Maalox®)
  • Calcium carbonate/magnesium carbonate (Mylanta®)
  • Calcium carbonate (Titralac®, Tums®)
  • Ranitidine (Zantac®)

*Occasional use only

Type of Remedy: Hemorrhoids

Safe Medications to Take During Pregnancy

  • Phenylephrine/mineral oil/petrolatum (Preparation H®)
  • Witch hazel (Tucks® pads or ointment)

Type of Remedy: Insect repellant

Safe Medications to Take During Pregnancy

  • N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET®)

Type of Remedy: Nausea and Vomiting

Safe Medications to Take During Pregnancy

  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Vitamin B6

Type of Remedy: Rashes

Safe Medications to Take During Pregnancy

  • Diphenhydramine cream (Benadryl)
  • Hydrocortisone cream or ointment
  • Oatmeal bath (Aveeno®)

Type of Remedy: Sleep

Safe Medications to Take During Pregnancy

  • Diphenhydramine (Unisom SleepGels®, Benadryl)

Type of Remedy: Yeast Infection

Safe Medications to Take During Pregnancy

  • Miconazole (Monistat®)