Is It Safe To Use Over The Counter (OTC) Medications During Pregnancy?

Written by MomJunction • 

Are you pregnant and taking a host of medicines as prescribed by your doctor? Are you also facing a few regular symptoms, but feel that taking an over the counter medicine for the same will also help? Are over the counter medications during pregnancy safe might be your question?

If you have any of the above concerns in mind, read on to know more about the consequences and effects of taking over the counter medications during your pregnancy.

What Are Over The Counter Medications (OTC)?

Just as the name suggests, over the counter medications or OTCs, are medications that are easily available without the need of a prescription. These drugs are mainly used to relieve pains, aches, allergies and itchiness. Sometimes, a few over the counter medications can also help to bring down temperature or control other conditions like indigestion, cold and cough. In some cases, over the counter medications can also help to prevent or even cure conditions like athlete’s foot or tooth decay(1).

[ Read:  Antibiotics That Are Safe During Pregnancy ]

Are Over The Counter Medications During Pregnancy Safe?

You may come across various medicine lists that come from genuine resources and proclaim to be safe for use during pregnancy. However, there is no data to back this claim. As a rule, no medication is considered safe to be used while you are pregnant, unless your condition strictly demands it. The first thing to remember is to speak to your doctor about any medicine you may think of taking. Even though they may be sold as not harmful while you are pregnant, some medications can end up causing fatal results(2).

[ Read:  Insulin During Pregnancy  ]

What Over The Counter (OTC) Medications Can You Take While You Are Pregnant?

The following list shows you a list of the medications that are considered as safe over the counter medications during pregnancy. However, we highly suggest you first speak to your doctor before taking any of these(3)

  • Benadryl (also known as diphenhydramine)
  • Claritin
  • Tylenol (also known as acetaminophen)
  • Saline spray or saline nose drops
  • Metamucil
  • Warm salts
  • Salt water gargle
  • Colace

These are safe otc drugs during pregnancy.

[ Read: Is Ambien Safe During Pregnancy ]

How Can You Read The Label On An Over The Counter Medicine?

The new over the counter medications that have been released in the market have detailed usage instructions. They also come with a detailed warning about how to read and understand what the medicine contains. Follow the pointers below to understand what the writing on the over the counter medication means: (4)

  • The ‘active ingredient’ labeling on the medicine is the therapeutic substance that the product contains. It mentions the amount of active ingredient that is present per unit.
  • The ‘uses’ labeling on the medicine describes the various diseases and symptoms that the particular product can prevent or treat.
  • The ‘warning’ label on the medicine tells you when and under what circumstances you should not use the particular medicine. It also tells you about the conditions that may require you to take your doctor’s approval before using. The label also tells you about the various conditions or other medications it can react with and any possible interactions and side effects. It also tells you when you should stop taking the particular medicine or when you should immediately contact a doctor. Most medications will also come with a warning label that tells you to check with your doctor first if you are pregnant or lactating. The warning will also tell you to keep it away from the reach of children. Certain medications will also come with a warning about storage and whether or not it needs refrigeration.
  • The ‘inactive ingredients’ label on the medicine tells you about other substances like colors or flavors that the medicine may contain.
  • The ‘purpose’ label on the medicine will tell you about the category or action of the medicine. For example, it will tell you whether it is a cough medicine or an antacid and like so.
  • The ‘directions’ label on the medicine will tell you specific directions about the medicine usage. It will tell you about the age group that is suitable for taking the said medicine. It will also tell you instructions on how and when to take the medicine and for how long.
  • You should also check the labels under the headings ‘date of manufacture’, ‘expiry date’, ‘what to do if an overdose occurs’ and so on.

[ Read: Is Acetaminophen Safe During Pregnancy ]

Most over the counter medications will not require a prescription even when you are pregnant. But this does not mean they are safe to take. Make sure you speak with your doctor and only then take any of the medicines, if at all required.

Did you speak to your doctor about OTC medication while you were pregnant? What did your doctor suggest? Was there any specific instruction your doctor gave you? Do share your experience here.

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