To Medicate or Not to Medicate: Here is the Answer

When you get hit with a sickness, your first response is often to reach for the medicine cupboard, but what happens during pregnancy? Whether you’re suffering from cold and flu or you’ve been hit with a stomach bug, you’re probably wondering what you can take to feel better. While some medications are safe during pregnancy, there are others that could cause serious side effects. The best rule of thumb is to avoid medicine whenever possible, but there are some types that are okay to take if necessary. Here is your complete guide to battling everything from stuffy noses to diarrhea during pregnancy and the best anti-nausea and headache medications we could find.

Happy pregnant woman with smartphone and medication at pharmacy

Happy pregnant woman with smartphone and medication at pharmacy

Stomach Issues

Hormones that relax your intestines can cause food to spend a longer amount of time inside your system, leading to many different stomach issues, including constipation and indigestion. The rapid change in these hormone levels can also lead to nausea, mostly in the first trimester. While these issues are annoying, there are certain medications that can be safe to treat them during pregnancy.

  • Diarrhea:  Getting a stomach bug during pregnancy can cause painful diarrhea. Not only is this issue annoying, it can also be dangerous. Dehydration caused by the rapid loss of fluids can cause a pregnant woman’s uterus to contract and actually put her into labor. Many women have begun dilating as a result, but IV-administered fluids in the hospital will usually stop labor. To take control of the situation before it reaches that level, try taking some Imodium. Small amounts of Kaopectate may be safe before 20 weeks. If your symptoms are not too severe, you can try to let it pass without taking medication.
  • Morning Sickness: This is another stomach issue that can turn deadly if it is extreme. While only a small percentage of pregnant women fit this category, be sure to talk to your doctor if you feel your vomiting is out of control. For most cases, your doctor can prescribe some anti-nausea medication or you can take Dramamine.
  • Constipation: When you can’t go, many doctors will prescribe a stool softener like Colace. You can also avoid a trip to your practitioner’s office and try some Dulcolax, Milk of Magnesia or Senokot. Eating plenty of fiber can also help, although it may give you gas. Regular exercise can also help get your system moving. Castor oil should not be taken at any time during pregnancy as the risks are too great.
  • Gas: If you do have gas pains, try some Mylicon (simethicone). Tums are an oft-used remedy and another benefit is that they are a good source of calcium. Also, try cutting out fatty foods and sweets from your diet.
  • Indigestion: Also known as heartburn, this common pregnancy ailment can be treated with Pepcid, Zantac, Mylanta, Maalox or Tums.

If your stomach troubles still persist, try a mild diet of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. This is known to stop diarrhea and be less likely to induce vomiting.

Cold and Flu

Some people claim a nine-month cold during pregnancy, but even if your sinuses are only temporarily inflamed, it can still be annoying and ruin the little sleep you may be getting. There are many sinus medications that are off-limits during pregnancy, but there are some types that are okay.

  • Stuffy Nose: Many women find that using a saline nasal spray is helpful and there are zero side effects since it is only salt water. You can also use Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) to relieve congestion after the first trimester in small amounts, since it may reduce blood flow to the placenta. Claritin may also be used as an alternative. Avoid any decongestant nasal sprays.
  • Cough: Cough drops are generally okay for taming coughs, but Robitussin products that are free of alcohol can also be used.
  • Flu Symptoms: Pain and fever relievers are a tricky pregnancy issue. Most doctors recommend that Naproxen only be used in small amounts and only during the second trimester. Tylenol and other acetaminophen medications are generally considered safe to use occasionally throughout pregnancy, so most doctors recommend sticking to those. Never use Aspirin during pregnancy.
  • Sore Throat: If you are plagues with a scratchy or sore throat, Chloraseptic or Cepacol lozenges can be used to soothe.

Natural remedies, such as some teas, honey, lemon and essential oils, can often provide relief for common cold symptoms during pregnancy. Using a humidifier is another great way to relieve sinus congestion. If you feel you may have the flu and cannot find relief, talk to your doctor right away.

Pregnant woman suffering with headache and nausea

Pregnant woman suffering with headache and nausea

Other Issues

Besides the symptoms mentioned above, there are other ailments you may get during pregnancy and wonder how to control. Here are some of the most common ones that can be medicated.

  • Hemorrhoids: If you suffer from this common pregnancy complaint, try using Preparation H or Tucks Pads.
  • Vaginal Yeast Infection: Some women are more prone to vaginal yeast infections than others. If you are one of these, you may find that Lotrimin, Monistat or Femstat are helpful. You may also need to talk to your doctor to be sure there is nothing more serious going on.
  • Rashes and Cuts: Neosporin or other antibiotic ointments are acceptable to use on cuts, while hydrocortisone cream can relieve rashes and itching. If your rash is severe, you may need to talk to a doctor about treatment.
  • Insomnia: While cutting out naps, decreasing sugar and establishing a routine bedtime can benefit insomnia sufferers, you can also fall asleep faster by taking Benadryl, Tylenol PM, Nytol or Sominex in small amounts.

While these medications are approved for use during pregnancy, you may also want to try some natural remedies first. Many of the birth defects have not been studied and remain unknown. The CDC claims that only around 10 percent of medication side effects have been studied during pregnancy, so it may be best to err on the side of caution and try something non-medicinal first. As always, be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about what you are taking. For more tips on how to handle these and many other questions in pregnancy and motherhood, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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