Medicines and Pregnancy
Like everyone else, pregnant women will suffer
from the normal health problems; headache, cough
and cold, upset stomach or hayfever. Many women
prefer to avoid taking any medicines during their
pregnancy, however this could cause unnecessary
discomfort which can be avoided. Pregnant women
should ensure they check with their GP or pharmacist
before taking any over-the-counter (OTC) medicines
that you can buy from your pharmacy or a supermarket
and always read the label and instructions before
There is a range of common illnesses that can
affect women over the course of their pregnancy,
and it doesn't have to mean misery and discomfort:
- Morning sickness
There are no OTC medicines that are licensed specifically for the treatment
of morning sickness. If you have mild nausea, eating small and frequent
meals high in carbohydrates and low in fat can help to maintain blood sugar
levels. Ginger or peppermint tea can also be of help.
- Coughs and colds
For a sore throat or dry cough, there are
a number of non-medicated pastilles with honey,
boiled sweets or non-medicated drinks that
can help. Simple linctus can also be used for
its short-term soothing effect.
- For congestion, steam inhalations with oil-based
decongestants should provide some relief as
they will liquefy mucus that may have been
caused by a chesty cough.
Paracetamol is generally regarded as being safe for use in pregnancy. You can also try a gentle forehead
massage. Many women actually find that migraines improve during pregnancy.
- Heartburn or indigestion
Antacid preparations are licensed for OTC use in pregnancy. The most preferred
types are calcium carbonate, with the most neutralising effect, or a combination
of aluminium and magnesium salts which are fairly insoluble and will remain
in the stomach for longer.
If you feel constipated, as a first treatment you should make sure you drink
more fluids and increase the level of fibre in your diet. If constipation
persists, you can try bulk-forming laxatives such as ispaghula husk or
lactulose. If these do not work, you can try a dose of senna, the stimulant
laxative. If you are in the later stages of pregnancy, you should avoid
using senna as, theoretically, it could cause uterine contractions.
Haemorrhoids, or piles, can be treated by a cream or ointment in mild cases.
You can apply an ice pack or topical bland astringent preparation if necessary.
If you develop thrush while pregnant you will have to visit your GP as a
pharmacist can not sell antifungal treatments to pregnant women.
Treatment for backache is predominantly paracetamol. To try and minimise
backache developing do not sit or stand in the same position for too long,
wear flat shoes, rest when pain is severe, support the back with a pillow
when seated and if picking up something take the strain on your legs rather
than your back. A warm bath and gentle stretching exercises should help
- Leg cramps
Avoiding high-heeled shoes can help reduce the risks of leg cramps and varicose
veins developing. As can having a pillow at the end of your bed to stop
your feet stretching forward. During a cramp, massaging and stretching
the muscle can provide some relief.
- Nicotine cravings
If you smoke you should try to stop - particularly if you are pregnant. Many Nicotine
replacement therapy products are suitable for use in pregnancy. Seek advice
from your GP or pharmacist if you are pregnant and need support with giving up smoking.
- Folic acid
Taking folic acid supplements early in pregnancy while the neural tube is
forming can reduce the chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect,
such as spina bifida. Women are advised to take folic acid supplements
containing 400mcg of folic acid each day before conceiving and up to the
12th week of pregnancy. Eating a diet rich in fortified foods, such as
breakfast cereals, some breads and folate rich foods, can also help.
a directory of medicines and food supplements
that are available 'over the counter' (OTC) from
your pharmacist. The links below will take you
to pages detailing products which may help treat
or relieve the following symptoms:
Direct and NHS 24 (in Scotland) - The gateway to health
information on the internet. Contains a list of information on health, including features, healthy living,
healthcare guide, conditions and treatments and frequently asked questions.