Drug Safety: Pregnancy & Medications

Protect your baby from harmful medications

Almost anything you consume — including medications, vitamins and supplements — can affect your baby while you are pregnant. Talk to your doctor about any prescribed or over-the-counter medications you may be taking to learn if they may be harmful to your baby — now or in the future.

It's best to think about the safe use of your medications before you become pregnant. Some drugs and vitamins have their greatest effect — positive or negative — in the early stages of pregnancy.

Talk to your doctor about your prescription medication before you become pregnant or as soon as you learn you are pregnant. Your doctor can help you plan the best way to approach your medications — to keep both you and your baby safe.

Vitamins and herbs

As soon as you know you're pregnant, ask your doctor for prenatal vitamins. Besides folate, these vitamins include extra calcium and iron to help meet the nutritional needs of the growing fetus.

Let your doctor know if you are taking any over-the-counter medications or supplements, either vitamins or herbs. Some of these may be unnecessary or may not be safe to take during pregnancy.

Medications

Before you attempt to get pregnant, talk to your doctor about the medications - both prescription and nonprescription drugs, herbs, vitamins, creams and eyedrops - you take regularly or occasionally. Ask if you can use them safely during pregnancy. Some drugs can be especially harmful early in pregnancy.

If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes, it may be important to your baby's health, as well as your own, that you keep your condition under control with medication. But some medicines may be safer for the fetus than others. Your doctor may want to change your medicine or dosages.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has developed a scale that shows the relative risk of taking particular medicines during pregnancy. The ranking is included with all prescription drugs:

  • Category A drugs have been tested for safety during pregnancy and have been found to be safe.
  • Category B drugs have been used a lot during pregnancy and do not appear to cause major birth defects or other problems.
  • Category C drugs are more likely to cause problems for the mother or fetus.
  • Category D drugs have clear health risks for the fetus.
  • Category X drugs have been shown to cause birth defects and should never be taken during pregnancy.

Medications and breastfeeding

It's true that common colds and the flu, like most common illnesses, cannot be passed on to your baby when you are breastfeeding.  The same cannot be said for all prescription medications.

It is important for you to have all the information you need when you are breastfeeding and a prescription drug is prescribed for you. Check with your doctor. He or she can give you advice on what medicine you should take, or whether or not you should stop taking a particular medication because you are breastfeeding.

Aetna can help, too. Our InteliHealth website is a great resource for finding answers to your questions about medications and breastfeeding.

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