|Taking medicines in pregnancy|
If you are pregnant, you should be aware that you need to avoid as many non-essential medicines as possible. But what are you to do if you have morning nausea, heartburn or Constipation related with pregnancy. Should you grin and bear them or can you take medicines and get relief?
The reason that you are recommended to avoid all non-essential medicines in pregnancy is that these medicines can cross the Placenta and enter the baby’s bloodstream. Here, they may cause problems in the developing baby. Alternatively, the medicines may affect some aspects of the baby’s environment that may cause problems to the baby.
How the medicine affects the baby or the mother depends upon the medicine itself and the Trimester of pregnancy the medicine is taken in.
How do medicines affect your developing baby?
The Trimester of pregnancy is often very important. If a medicine is safe or not depends not only on the medicine but also upon the Trimester during which it is taken. Some medicines can be dangerous to take in the first Trimester but safe in the second or third trimesters, or vice versa.
In the first trimester, the baby’s organs come into origin and start developing. Therefore, it is most risky to take medicines during this time; they may affect development, causing malformations and birth defects. In case of very serious defects, a Miscarriage can occur. The second Trimester is considered the safest period.
However, during the second Trimester medicines can interfere with the development of the baby's nervous system, or with the growth of the baby, resulting in a Low birth weight.
Medicines taken in the final Trimester can result in complications during childbirth or cause problems in the baby such as breathing difficulties. This may occur because the medicine remains in the baby's body after birth, and the newborn baby’s body is not developed enough to cope with the effects of the medicine.
Some medicines taken by the mother can interfere with the environment within the womb. Some medicines can cause contractions of the uterus, decreasing the blood supply to the baby, while others may cause early, delayed or even prolonged labor, all of which may harm the baby.
How do we know which medicines are safe?
For most of the medicines used today, we do not know whether they are safe to use during pregnancy. That’s because the Pharmaceutical companies that develop these medicines rarely perform trials or actual studies of their medicines on pregnant women. As a result, only few medicines are actually licensed for use during pregnancy.
The information that we have about safety of medicines in pregnancy mainly comes from practical experience with the medicines over time. When a medicine has been widely in use for many years without causing adverse effects on pregnancies, it is considered safe. Information is also derived from animal studies and from women who have accidentally been exposed to a medicine during pregnancy.
That’s how we get to know that some medicines are known to be safe while others are known to be definitely harmful. But for majority of medicines, prescription or OTC, there isn't the firm evidence to conclude their safety or risk. If you want to take any medicine while you are pregnant, weigh the risks and benefits. Because you might not be aware or have important information about the medicine, it might be difficult for you to understand the risks and benefits.
Ideally, therefore, the decision should be made by your doctor, who will be able to weigh up the benefits of a particular medicine to the mother against the risks of that same medicine to the baby. If the benefits are far more than the risks, then the medicine may be given to the mother. If the risks to the baby are too great or very severe, then alternative treatment options may be sought. The final decision about taking a medicine should be made in conjunction with you.
Is there anything I can take to treat minor ailments?
The best way to minimise any risks for your baby is to avoid all non-essential medicines, especially in the first Trimester. However, what follows is a general overview of what you can and can't take safely to treat common minor illnesses. Remember: always consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medicine during pregnancy.
What about medicines for chronic medical conditions?
If you have a chronic medical problem for which you need to take medicine regularly, such as diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, Thyroid disorder and so on, and are pregnant, you should not stop taking your medicine abruptly. Make sure to ask your doctor before you stop taking such a medication, since untreated illnesses can have a harmful effect on your pregnancy.