Is it safe to take medication when you’re pregnant?

Just because you are pregnant doesn’t mean you won’t get ordinary aches and pains, like headaches or a cold. I rarely have pain other than the occasional headache, but when I was pregnant I had a lot of back pain, frequent headaches, a stuffy nose and De Quervain syndrome (also known as mother’s wrist—pain and swelling on the thumb side of the wrist). I knew what I would take if I wasn’t pregnant, but wasn’t sure it would be safe for my baby. So I asked my doctor.

It is important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you begin taking any medications, vitamins or herbs. Even “natural” products like herbs, minerals or amino acids are not necessarily safe. Drug companies can’t test medications on pregnant women, so in many cases we don’t have much information on how they can affect a women and her baby.

If you are pregnant and want to take a medication, talk to your doctor. Ask if there are any known safe alternatives. For example, maybe an ice pack would work for pain instead of medication. Ginger root or frequent eating and drinking may relieve nausea.

For some women, ongoing health conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes can actually get worse during pregnancy. There are several pregnancy exposure registries to help you learn which medications for these conditions are safe to take while pregnant. These registries are not run by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but the FDA does keep a list of all of them, where you can look for your medication or medical condition.

Just recently the FDA released a warning that pregnant mothers should not take certain migraine medications because they can lower children’s IQ scores. This warning was a result of the findings from the antiepileptic drug pregnancy registry.

If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant and take medication for an ongoing medical condition, contact a pregnancy exposure registry to learn more about your risks and options.

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