Laxatives John Larsen, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at The George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., tells his patients to drink a lot of water and use a fiber preparation such as oat bran or Metamucil. Stronger purgatives may cause severe cramping and become habit-forming.
Nausea remedies Although drugs can be prescribed for severe nausea, pregnant women’s milder upsets have been treated for decades with the over-the-counter antihistamine doxylamine. Found in some sleep aids, it also can be safely used to ease cold or allergy symptoms. Anti-nausea remedies such as cola syrup or other sugar compounds (including Emetrol) have been used for generations. If your doctor agrees, they can be a safe choice during pregnancy.
Creams Occasional use of topical hydrocortisone creams (Dermacort) seems to be safe for soothing annoying skin rashes. “No over-the-counter topical ointment or cream has been found to cause birth defects in humans,” Martinez says.
Even so, Filkins advises against casual daily use of these compounds. “Topical medications are absorbed by different women in varying degrees,” so it’s a good idea to ask your doctor first,” she says.
Medications to be avoided at all costs are such known teratogens (agents that cause birth defects) as the acne drug isotretinoin (Accutane); repeated high doses of androgen hormones used to treat some cancers; and thalidomide, which has been used in the laboratory to treat AIDS, leprosy and even arthritis. Also avoid daily doses of aspirin or other blood thinners late in pregnancy, as well as alcohol and cigarettes.
Should you have a nervous stomach after reading this, Filkins offers this final bit of advice: “Go ahead. Take the Tums.”