As a general rule, all medicines or drugs must be avoided during pregnancy unless absolutely necessary. Tobacco, alcohol and even caffeine have chemicals that can have lasting effects in a baby and prove dangerous for the mother. Children of mothers who use drugs can have lots of developmental issues. Some drugs that are taken to treat a disorder or a symptom may also cause birth defects in the baby.
For any sickness during pregnancy, even minor ones, never take any OTC medicines by yourself. Consult a doctor even if it is only a cold or headache. Some medications are safe to be taken during pregnancy but others may not be or their effects on the baby may not be known. Self-medication is unsafe and must never be done.
Once the pregnancy has been confirmed, the doctor will prescribe supplements like certain vitamins and iron to be taken. Let the doctor know of any medicines that you take regularly for any pre-existing conditions. This includes any supplements even if they are organic or natural. Natural does not mean safe, and the effects of most herbs and plants on unborn babies have not been studied thoroughly. The doctor will modify the dosage or if needed substitute with safer drugs that will not cause harm during pregnancy. He may advise you to consult with a specialist if your condition so dictates.
Just like oxygen and nutrients, any medicines or drugs taken reach the foetus by crossing the placenta. Drugs taken during pregnancy can affect the foetus in several ways:
- They can act directly on the foetus, causing damage, abnormal development (leading to birth defects), or death.
- The blood vessels in the placenta may become narrow or constrict and thus reduce the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the foetus from the mother. As a result, the baby may be born underweight and underdeveloped.
- They can cause strong contractions in the uterus, injuring the foetus by reducing its blood supply or triggering pre-term labour and delivery.
- The foetus may also be affected indirectly. For example, drugs that are used to treat high blood pressure may reduce blood flow to the placenta and thus restrict the amount of nutrition that reaches the foetus.
The internet has lists of medications that are safe to take during pregnancy on many websites. But there is not enough known about many medicines listed on these sites to determine that they are safe during pregnancy. It is strongly advised not to take any medicines during pregnancy based on internet information. Before stopping or starting any kind of medication the doctor must be consulted.
Pregnancy is a time during which only what is necessary for the mother and the baby should be taken, in the proper dosage. The doctor should be the only one to prescribe what is to be taken and the prescriptions need to be followed until the baby is born safely.