Medication and Pregnancy

Image of doctor prescribing medication

It is common to have questions regarding medication use during pregnancy. You might be trying to get pregnant and wonder how current medication use could affect your efforts to conceive. Or you may have just discovered that you are pregnant and wonder if the medication is a risk to your baby.

Contact your health care provider who prescribed the medication. You may discover that the benefits of taking the medication outweigh potential risks. You and your health care provider can work through these factors and try to determine what course of action is best for both you and your baby.

Please know that many women take prescription medication during pregnancy for necessary reasons like diabetes, seizures, depression, anxiety, and other medical conditions. Some pregnant women take medications to help with common discomforts of pregnancy such as heartburn, morning sickness, or headaches.

Image of pregnant woman holding medication

Pregnancy can affect the effectiveness of your medication. When you are pregnant, your blood volume increases, and your heart and kidneys both work harder. This means that medications have the potential to pass through your body more quickly than usual. This may mean that you have to take more medicine or take it differently.

In most cases, there are different types of medications to address a particular problem. Your health care provider may switch the type of medication you are on to take care of your medical needs while lessening any risk to your developing baby.

Risk Factor Classifications

Each medication has a risk factor classification associated with potential risk factors during pregnancy. These ratings, along with an evaluation of the risks and benefits of using a particular medication in your situation, will help you and your health care provider determine what steps to take. Pregnancy medication classifications include the following:

  • Category A:  Controlled studies show no risk or find no evidence of harm.
  • Category B:  Animal studies show no risks, but there are no controlled studies on pregnant women.
  • Category C:  Animal studies have shown risk to the fetus, there are no controlled studies in women, or studies in women and animals are not available.
  • Category D:  There is positive evidence of potential fetal risk, but the benefits from use in pregnant women may be acceptable despite the risk (i.e. life threatening condition to mother).
  • Category X:  Studies in animals or human beings have demonstrated fetal abnormalities, or there is evidence of fetal risk. The drug is contraindicated in women who are or may become pregnant.

Category C is the confusing category. A medication gets this classification if there is insufficient data on its use during pregnancy. It could be safe or probably safe, or it could be potentially harmful.

Alternatives to Medication

Your doctor has the best in mind for both you and your developing baby. She might look to change the course of treatment by incorporating other methodologies such as acupuncture, herbal medications, or behavioral techniques. Of course, this depends on what medical conditions you are dealing with.

You or your health care provider can explore the Natural Medicines Database to find out information about herbs and their use during pregnancy.

Recommendations

You should never start or stop taking medication while pregnant without first consulting your health care provider. Here are some steps to help make sure you and your developing baby are properly cared for.

  • Always consult your doctor – This is your first and most important step.
  • Read the Label – Look for warnings or pregnancy indications. You should also look for potential allergic reactions as well as expiration dates.
  • Be aware of side effects – Consult your health care provider or the pharmacist about potential side effects. Some medications cause side effects like sleepiness, headaches, or vomiting which may be enhanced because of pregnancy hormones.
  • Organize your medications – Be careful to not mix up your medications to avoid overdosing.
  • Do not skip medications – Take as prescribed by your health care provider
  • Do not share medications.
  • Ask Questions – It is appropriate to ask questions about medication safety for you and your developing baby. Ask about the medication name, generic alternatives, benefits and risks, and problems to watch for.
  • Keep Records – It is always beneficial to keep a record of medications taken whether pregnant or not. This becomes even more important if you are expecting.
  • Check Pregnancy Medication Registries – The FDA has a new pregnancy and medication registry that you may find helpful.