Getting sick when you’re pregnant can be scary enough without having to stress about whether popping pills that might ease your symptoms will harm your growing baby. “One of the biggest things my pregnant patients are afraid of is ingesting something that may cause birth defects or negatively impact the baby’s development,” says Alane Park, M.D., mother of two sons and co-author of The Mommy Docs’ Ultimate Guide To Pregnancy and Birth. “The truth is that most medications are actually deemed fairly okay. While you want to minimize drug use as much as possible, the consequences of not taking a medication on the health of the mother and baby usually outweigh any potential risks.” To get relief and feel more at ease, check out Dr. Park’s recommendations for safe drugs to take when you’re expecting.
Safe to take: Regular and extra-strength Tylenol (acetaminophen)
Follow the dosage on the bottle for Tylenol and you’ll be okay. Other types of pain relievers—such as ibuprofen (a.k.a. Motrin or Advil) and naproxen (a.k.a. Aleve)—can trigger a decrease in amniotic fluid levels in third trimester (which means less cushioning for baby and more pressure on its lifeline, the umbilical cord), says Dr. Park. Advil may also make a certain vessel in the baby’s heart close prematurely and cause developmental issues in later stages of pregnancy.
Safe to take: Metamucil, Colace, Citracel, Milk of Magnesia, Dulcolax
If you’re feeling a little plugged up, blame it on a surge in the hormone progesterone that slows down your smooth muscle cells so your bowel movements aren’t as regular. (Or blame it on your growing uterus for pushing on your intestines!). Dr. Park gives the green light for taking stool softeners and laxatives, but also try upping your fiber intake by eating more fruits and veggies and drinking plenty of fluids.
For Indigestion and Heartburn
Safe to take: Tums, Maalox, Mylanta, Pepcid
Progesterone is at it again, causing heartburn by affecting your smooth muscle cells and relaxing the sphincter between your stomach and esophagus so acid comes up. (And your growing uterus is also pushing on your stomach to add to the heartburn.) Before you take a prescription med such as Prilosec, try over-the-counter remedies first because they’re the least strong. Also eat smaller, more frequent meals and stop noshing two to three hours before you hit the sack.
Safe to take: Penicillin
If you have an infection such as strep throat or an UTI that calls for antibiotics, penicillin is the way to go. “There have never been any birth defects associated with the penicillin family, or any other issues linked to mom or baby,” says Dr. Park. However, the tetracycline and doxycycline families of antibiotics have been found to cause discoloration in babies’ teeth after the fourth month of pregnancy, because these meds affect the calcification—or the hardening—of their pearly whites. “It’s purely a cosmetic thing, but best to avoid those types of antibiotics,” says Dr. Park.