medicines to avoid during pregnancy

The prevalence of congenital anomalies in India is about 6.5%, which means that about 1.7 million babies are born with defects annually, according to a report by the National Health Portal (NHP). While the number might not sound dangerously high, careless living, use of drugs and taking over the counter medicines (OTC) can raise the risk of birth defects immensely. This risk is much higher when these substances are used during the critical developmental phases of the fetus, which is during the first and the third trimesters. Therefore, pregnant women have a responsibility to always use medication as prescribed by their doctor to augment the health of their babies. The following are some of the medicines to avoid during pregnancy.

List of Medicines to Avoid During Pregnancy

medicines to avoid during pregnancy

Antifungal Drugs

Vaginal infections are a common problem during pregnancy. This is due to the sound hormonal imbalance that occurs when one is expectant, making potential moms more susceptible to causal agents. In fact, approximately 1 in five pregnant women will develop Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), an itchy and irritating condition, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Other common infections include Group B Strep, Trichomoniasis, and Yeast Infections. However complicated your condition may get, you should never medicate yourself with the widely available Fluconazole tablets. This is because they contain ingredients that could find their way into the umbilical cord and interfere with the development of your young one. Though some of these infections sometimes heal on their own, your doctor may use a course of antibiotics such as Metronidazole during the second trimester. Besides, there are preventive measures that you could take, such as staying hydrated and consuming yoghurt, which contains Lactobacillus, an ingredient that is known to rise to the occasion well.

Antihistamines

These are medications that are mostly used to fight asthma, sneezing, rash and breathing impairment among other common allergies. While they do not affect everyone the same way, some of these drugs have components that could cause extreme reactions in the womb, especially during the third trimester. They also cause fainting, fatigue, dizziness and a feeling of dryness, which are not healthy for the developing baby. Instead of using them, you should make some simple lifestyle improvements such as maintaining the cleanliness of your home and keeping the air conditioner on. You can also use salt water sprays to detoxify the environment around you.

Acne Medications

An increase in hormone Androgen can cause your glands to produce excess sebum, a waxy substance that can clog pores leading to inflammation and breakouts. This is the reason most pregnant ladies experience unexplained acne especially during the first and the third trimesters. Women who get breakouts during their periods have a higher risk of pregnancy acne, but the good news is that it is usually temporary. While you may want to bring back your beauty as fast as possible, drugs such as Accutane and Retin-A should be avoided at all costs. They are often associated with defects such as brain malformation, heart problems and facial and skeleton abnormalities. Luckily, there are other non-invasive and natural alternatives to beat acne. Such products include apple cider vinegar, baking soda, citrus, honey, coconut oil among others. Also, drinking a lot of water will help to maintain the glow of your skin by flushing out toxins.

Aspirin

Though aspirin is the most commonly used drug for headaches, it can cause dangerous health defects in unborn babies. For instance, taking it throughout your gestation period can increase the risk of placental abruption, which occurs when a part of the placenta detaches from the uterus. Also, taking it in the third trimester could delay labour and facilitate the risk of heart and lung problems or even stillbirth. For the same reasons, you should avoid other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen. However, there are some cases where taking a prescribed dose of these drugs is not a problem. For example, it is used together with heparin to prevent a condition known as Hughes Syndrome which involves the development of blood clots that can cause miscarriage. All in all, paracetamol is considered safer if you need to take something to beat a fever, headache, or pain, but always make sure that you get clearance from your doctor.

Morning Sickness Medications

75% of pregnant women spend their mornings sick to their stomachs, and though it starts as mild nausea, it can rise to dangerous levels. Instead of taking OTC drugs such as pyridoxine pills by yourself, it is better to consult your doctor for safe amounts of prescription. They will always diagnose you depending on your specific symptoms, and sometimes they may detect Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which would necessitate an advanced clinical checkup and potentially save the life of your baby. That is why you should not treat morning sickness yourself regarding it as normal and common. Nevertheless, this condition also has lifestyle remedies that you can adapt to. They include drinking plenty of fluids, breathing fresh air, and eating food that is high in lean proteins and low on fats.

Illegal Drugs

If you take amphetamines, you raise the chances of your baby being born with heart deformities. These drugs also increase placental complications and risk miscarriage or premature birth. Marijuana, though legal in some countries, is not safe for pregnant mothers. Bhang contains over 400 active chemicals, and some may cross the placenta and enter the fetus’ bloodstream and brain. Research shows that after a woman ingests marijuana, the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the baby’s blood is a tenth of the level in her blood. THC can cause low birth weight, early birth and developmental delays. Therefore, expectant mothers should refrain from using marijuana, despite the misconception that it reduces morning sickness.

Travel Immunizations and Tranquilizers

If you are a travelling mom, at some point you may need a vaccination if you are visiting a place where malaria or yellow fever is common. Though most doctors consider some of these drugs dangerous to your baby’s health, sometimes you may be allowed to use them because the risk that these diseases pose is more severe than that of the preventive medication. Tranquilizers are often used to treat anxiety, panic, and insomnia because they provide a calming feeling. However, these drugs (including diazepam, Librium and valium) can raise your baby’s risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Though they are most dangerous when used over a long period of time, they are easy to get addicted to, and that is why doctors advise against them.

Some Herbs and Their Products

When pregnant, your body is under a lot of pressure and strain mainly due to the surge of hormones, and that is why you require to add natural herbs to your diet. Luckily, most herbal medicines are safe due to their immune-boosting characteristics. The medicines to avoid during pregnancy include dong quai, rosemary, aloe vera, liquorice and ginseng. They can facilitate various pregnancy complications such as premature birth, miscarriage, uterine contractions and fetal deformation. Those that you can safely include in your diet include dandelion, eucalyptus, turmeric, ginger, garlic, cranberry and mint. However, there are limitations to how much of a particular herb you can use depending on how your body is specifically reacting to the pregnancy.

Nasal Decongestants and Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

When pregnant, you might experience itchy and watery eyes and noses. After showing such symptoms, you should refrain from taking nasal decongestants because they will add to your problems by causing nausea, insomnia and migraines. They include Afrin, Dristan, Silfedrine, and Sudafed, among others. Instead, you can use steam inhalation to decongest your respiratory system. MAOIs are widely used to fight depression and bipolar disorder, but you should try and stay away from them as well.

Nevertheless, some doctors advise that the decision to use them should be determined by the balance between benefits and risks. Some of the drugs that the doctors might consider include serotonin and norepinephrine inhibitors, such as Cymbalta and Effexor XR. Also, switching between these drugs to achieve better results is not encouraged.

If you are pregnant, you should be extremely cautious about consuming substances, such as illegal drugs, OTC drugs, supplements and some herbal products. In fact, for 98% of prescription and OTC drugs, there is not enough research to confirm that a certain drug is entirely safe to use during pregnancy, according to Consumer Reports.

Therefore, you should avoid these medicines during pregnancy and go for non-drug measures which also work wonders in alleviating symptoms. For example, massage, meditation or a walk in the evening can cut out stress or a headache. If, however, you get worse and the need for drugs arises, consult your healthcare provider before using any. Additionally, always remember to carefully read all labels of packed foods and drinks because ingredients such as caffeine and alcohol are used in unexpected products. 

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