Medicine and Pregnancy: An Overview

Key Points

  • Medicine use in pregnancy is common.
  • If you're pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant, talk to your healthcare providers before starting or stopping any medicines.
Woman talking with a pharmacist about medication use


Almost all pregnant people face decisions about taking medicines during pregnancy. Many people need to take medicines during pregnancy to treat health conditions. In some cases, avoiding or stopping a medicine during pregnancy may be more harmful than taking it.

And yet, certain medicines during pregnancy can increase the risk for health problems, such as some birth defects, prematurity, or pregnancy loss.

Did you know?‎

The effects of medicine on you and your baby may depend on many factors: how much you take (sometimes called the dose), when during pregnancy you take it, other health conditions you have, and other medicines you take.

What the data shows

Medicine use during pregnancy is common. About 9 in 10 women report taking some type of medicine during pregnancy. About 7 in 10 report taking at least one prescription medicine. From 1997-2018, use of at least one prescription medication in the first trimester increased 35%.12

Safety information is lacking. Fewer than 10% of medicines approved since 1980 have enough information to determine their safety during pregnancy. This is because pregnant people are often not included in studies that determine the safety of new medicines.3

As a result, pregnant people and healthcare professionals have limited information to make informed treatment decisions during pregnancy.

Common questions

Many people need to take medicine to stay healthy before and during pregnancy. If you're planning to become pregnant, you should discuss your current medicines with your healthcare provider. Creating a treatment plan for your health condition before pregnancy can help keep you and your baby healthy.

If you're concerned about medicines you took before you knew you were pregnant, talk with your healthcare provider about your concerns. Some medicines can be harmful when taken during pregnancy, but others are unlikely to cause harm. If you're concerned and cannot reach your doctor, contact an expert for free at MotherToBaby.

Use caution when consulting online sources about medicine safety in pregnancy. Instead, use the information you find to start a conversation with a healthcare professional. Many websites post lists of medicines that are "safe" to take during pregnancy. However, for many medicines listed, there is not enough scientific evidence of their safety during pregnancy.

Although many medications do pass into breast milk, most have little or no effect on milk supply or on infant well-being. For more detailed information, LactRx is an online database that provides information about managing your health conditions while breastfeeding.

What's being done

CDC and partners study medicine use in pregnancy to understand how specific medicines might affect pregnancy. Results of these studies provide better information on the safety and risks of using specific medicines before, during, and after pregnancy.

This information can help you weigh the risks and benefits of medicines. It can also help you and your healthcare provider make decisions about treatment options.

What you can do

Talk to your healthcare providers before starting or stopping any medicines. Be sure to discuss the following with your healthcare providers:

  • All medicines you take, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, herbal and dietary supplements, and vitamins
  • Best ways to keep any health conditions you have under control
  • Your personal goals and preferences for the health of you and your baby
Pregnant person sitting on a couch with a bottle of medicine talking with her doctor via a tablet.
Talk to your healthcare provider about any medicines you take.


Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s website contains information about taking medicines during pregnancy. FDA also maintains an alphabetical index of safety information for specific drugs.

MotherToBaby provides information and fact sheets, in English and Spanish. These materials describe the risks and safety of taking specific medicines during pregnancy and breastfeeding. You can contact MotherToBaby, whose experts can answer questions in English or Spanish by phone, chat, or email. This service is free and confidential.

  • Call 1-866-626-6847
  • Chat live or send an email MotherToBaby

The U.S. HHS's Office of Women's Health provides free, reliable health information for women everywhere. The site contains a database of resources on many topic areas, such as pregnancy and medicine.

LactRx is a database that contains information about specific medicines and ways they might affect breastfeeding mothers and their babies. This resource also describes potential alternatives to consider, if needed.

  1. Mitchell AA, Gilboa SM, Werler MM, Kelley KE, Louik C, Hernandez-Diaz S, and the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Medication use during pregnancy, with particular focus on prescription drugs: 1976-2008. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2011;205(1):51.e1-8.
  2. Werler MM, Kerr SM, Ailes EC, Reefhuis J, Gilboa SM, Browne ML, Kelley KE, Hernandez-Diaz S, Smith-Webb RS, Garcia MH, Mitchell AA and The National Birth Defects Prevention Study and Birth Defects Study To Evaluate Pregnancy exposureS. Patterns of Prescription Medication Use during the First Trimester of Pregnancy in the United States, 1997–2018. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2023.
  3. Adam MP, Polifka JE, Friedman JM. Evolving knowledge of the teratogenicity of medications in human pregnancy. Am J Med Genet Part C. 2011;157:175-82.