Pregnancy and Medication

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 If you are pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant, you should be careful about taking any medication - including drugs and herbal remedies that you can buy from the pharmacy. Which drugs are safe to take when pregnant? Some drugs have been well studied in pregnant women. Some are known to be safe (for example, penicillin), and some are known to be unsafe (for example, thalidomide). However, for many drugs, we do not know for sure if they are safe or unsafe.

So, if you are planning a pregnancy, or if you are pregnant, you should minimise your use of medication. This includes drugs that you can buy. Also, just because a drug says it is 'herbal' or 'natural' it does not necessarily mean that it is harmless or safe.

Some commonly used drugs that you can buy:

  • Paracetamol at normal dose is safe and useful for headaches, backache, and other aches and pains that may occur during pregnancy.
  • Anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen. You should not normally take these during pregnancy. Regular use during pregnancy may affect the large blood vessels of the developing baby.
  • Laxatives. Constipation is common in pregnancy and you may need a laxative. At first it is best to try increasing the fibre in your diet and increasing the amount that you drink. If this fails then fibre supplements such as bran, ispagula and sterculia are safe. If you need something stronger, then it is best to discuss this with a doctor. Some laxatives such as docusate and lactulose may be prescribed safely for a short time.
  • Antihistamines. The safest one to use in pregnancy is chlorphenamine. This is because it is the oldest, and so has a long established safety record. However, it tends to make some people drowsy. If you require an alternative then it is best to see a doctor for advice.
  • Decongestants such as pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine and xylometazoline are best avoided in the early stages of pregnancy. However, they are unlikely to be harmful if used just 'now and then'.

Drugs that you are prescribed

Always tell a doctor or dentist who prescribes you medication if you are pregnant, or intend to become pregnant. If you already take regular medication, (for example, for epilepsy), it is important that you discuss this with a doctor before becoming pregnant. If you have an unplanned pregnancy, discuss any medication that you take with your doctor as early as possible. In some cases, the risk of taking the drug has to be balanced against the risk of not taking the drug, and your condition not being treated.

Pregnancy and Folic Acid

If you are planning to become pregnant you should take folic acid supplements and, once pregnant, continue to take the supplements for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. If you take folic acid supplements it reduces the risk of having a baby born with a defect of their spinal cord such as spina bifida. What is folic acid? Folic acid (folate) is a vitamin and is needed to make new cells in the body. The body does not store very much folic acid. You need a regular fresh supply to keep healthy. Pregnant women in particular need a good supply of folic acid which is used by the developing baby. Many foods contain folic acid including vegetables such as spinach, sprouts, broccoli, green beans, and potatoes. Some bread and breakfast cereals are fortified with folic acid. Folic acid supplements and pregnancy You should start taking folic acid tablets before becoming pregnant (from the time you plan to become pregnant). If the pregnancy is unplanned then start taking folic acid tablets as soon as you know that you are pregnant. Continue to take folic acid tablets for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy - even if you eat a good diet. You can buy folic acid tablets from pharmacies. If you take folic acid tablets in early pregnancy you reduce the risk of having a baby born with a spinal cord problem such as spina bifida. This is because the early development of the baby's spinal cord requires a regular good supply of folic acid.

What dose should I take?

For most women the dose is 400 micrograms (0.4mg) a day.

If your risk of having a child with a spinal cord problem is increased then the dose is higher (5mg a day - you need a prescription for this higher dose).

That is, if:

  • you have had a previously affected pregnancy.
  • your partner, or a first-degree relative, have a spinal cord defect.
  • you have coeliac disease (as your intake of folate may be affected by this condition).
  • you are taking medication for epilepsy
  • you have sickle cell anaemia or thalassaemia

In addition to folic acid supplements, you should eat a healthy diet when you are pregnant which should include foods rich in folic acid.

Are there any side-effects or risks when taking folic acid?

No. Folic acid is a naturally occurring vitamin which your body needs. It is not a drug (medicine). By taking these supplements you are just making sure that you get a good, regular amount of folic acid which you need especially during pregnancy. 

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අපගේ සම්පත් දායකයකු වන කොළඹ "ලංකා හොස්පිටල්ස්" ආයතනයේ නාරී හා ප්‍රසව රෝග පිළිබඳ විශේෂන්ඥ වෛද්‍ය විජිත් විද්‍යාභුෂණ මහතා විසින් සකස් කල ලිපියක් ඇසුරිනි. Thanks to our kind resource person Dr Vijith Vidyabhushana, Consultant VOG at Lanka Hospitals, Colombo 05.

Dr Vijith Diyabhushana, MBBS (Colombo), MS (Colombo), MRCOG (UK), DFFP (UK), RCR/RCOG, Dip Advanced Obstetric Ultrasound (UK), Accredited Ultrasound Specialist

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ඔබට ඇති වෛද්‍ය ගැටළු අසන්න මෙහි ක්ලික් කරන්න, Ask a Doctor | වෛද්‍යවරයාගෙන් අසන්න
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මෙම ලිපිය ඔබට ප්‍රයෝජනවත් වුනානම් හෝ ඔබේ මිතුරියකට ප්‍රයෝජනවත් වේ යයි සිතනවානම්, කරුණාකර පහත ඇති "recommend" ක්ලික් කිරීමෙන් එය බෙදා හදා ගැනීමට අමතක කරන්න එපා. තවද, මෙම ලිපිය පිළිබඳව ඔබේ අදහස්, යෝජනා සහ අනෙකුත් මවුවරුන්/කාන්තාවන් හට ප්‍රයෝජනවත් වන ඔබේ අත්දැකීම් පහත ලියා තැබීමටද අප ආරාධනා කරමු. ස්තුතියි! 

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