Are you pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant? 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
Share our poster with family and friends to encourage conversations about safer medicine use in pregnancy and help prevent birth defects and other health problems.
What We Know About Medicine Use in Pregnancy
Almost every pregnant woman will face a decision about taking medicines before and during pregnancy. However, we know little about the effects of taking most medicines in pregnancy because pregnant women are often not included in studies that determine the safety of new medicines. We do know
- 9 in 10 women report taking some type of medicine during pregnancy, and 7 in 10 report taking at least one prescription medicine. Over the last 30 years, women’s use of prescription medicines during the first trimester (first 3 months) of pregnancy increased by more than 60%;1
- Many women need to take medicines during pregnancy to control their health conditions. In some cases, avoiding or stopping a medicine during pregnancy may be more harmful than taking that medicine;
- At the same time, we know that taking certain medicines during pregnancy can increase the risk for birth defects, pregnancy loss, prematurity, infant death, or developmental disabilities; and
- The effects of medicine on you and your baby may depend on many factors, such as
- How much medicine you take (sometimes called the dose),
- When during the pregnancy you take the medicine,
- Other health conditions you have, and
- Other medicines you take.
Have a Healthy Pregnancy
Is it safe for me to take medicines before I get pregnant?
If you are trying to have a baby or are just thinking about it, it is not too early to start getting ready for pregnancy. Many women need to take medicine to stay healthy during pregnancy. If you are planning to become pregnant, you should discuss your current medicines with a healthcare provider, such as your doctor or pharmacist. Some medicines can cause birth defects very early in pregnancy, often before you even know you are pregnant. Creating a treatment plan for your health condition before you are pregnant can help keep you and your developing baby healthy.
Check out 10 ways to plan for a healthy pregnancy for more quick tips and advice.
I need to take a medicine while pregnant. What do I do?
If you are pregnant, talk with a healthcare professional about any medicines you have taken or are thinking of taking. You should go over all prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, herbal and dietary supplements, and vitamins. The FDA’s Office of Women’s Health developed a tool in English and Spanish to help you keep a record of the medicines you take. Although no medicine is completely risk-free, a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or pharmacist, can help you pick a treatment plan that works for you. You should not start any new medicines or stop a current medicine without talking to a healthcare professional.
You might need to take medicines to treat a health condition. For example, if you have asthma, epilepsy, high blood pressure, or depression, you may need to take medicines to stay healthy during pregnancy. Some untreated health conditions may actually be more harmful than the medicines used to control them. However, we know that some medicines can increase the risk of birth defects, pregnancy loss, prematurity, infant death, or developmental disabilities. A healthcare professional can help you weigh the risks and benefits of each medicine and determine the safest treatment for you and your developing baby.
Good Medicine Can Be Bad for Baby Podcast
Listen to an expert discuss why you should talk to a healthcare professional about the medicines you take during pregnancy.
I took a medicine before I knew I was pregnant. What do I do?
If you took medicines before you learned you were pregnant, you may want to talk with a healthcare professional about any concerns you may have. Some medicines can be harmful when taken during pregnancy, but others are unlikely to cause harm. If you are concerned and cannot reach your doctor, you can contact an expert for free through email, text, call, or live chat on the MotherToBaby website.
Should I trust online information about medicine safety in pregnancy?
Use caution when consulting online sources about medicine safety in pregnancy– instead, use this information 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.
Take caution when watching online videos as well. A 2015 study found that content in current YouTube videos does not accurately describe the safety of specific medicines used during pregnancy. This is an important reason for you to talk with a healthcare professional about potential risks of using medicines during pregnancy.
Can I take medicine once I’m no longer pregnant?
After pregnancy, keep you and your baby healthy by talking with a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or pharmacist, about the medicines you are thinking of taking. LactMed is an online database that provides information about specific medicines, ways they might affect you or your baby, and potential alternatives to consider. Information in this database can help guide the conversation with your healthcare professional about managing your health condition while breastfeeding.
How You Can Help
We know little about the effects of taking most medicines in pregnancy, because pregnant women are often not included in studies that determine the safety of new medicines. As a result, women and healthcare professionals have limited information about the safety of most medicines – especially newer medicines— in pregnancy.
Treating for Two and its partners are gathering new information on medicines taken during pregnancy and how medicines might affect the pregnancy.
You can help improve the evidence on medicines and pregnancy by doing the following:
- Report suspected problems. First, tell your healthcare provider about any problems you have with your medicine. You can also report suspected problems with medicines directly to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) MedWatch Program.
- Enroll in a pregnancy registry. Pregnancy registries are systems for tracking outcomes in pregnant women who take a particular medicine. After these women give birth, researchers compare the health of their babies with the babies of women who did not take the medicine. Pregnancy registries are a useful way to study the effects of a particular medicine and gather health information during pregnancy and after delivery. For a list of current pregnancy registries and how to enroll, visit the FDA Pregnancy Registry website.
- Sign up for a research study. Help researchers find answers about the safety of medicines during pregnancy by signing up for a MotherToBaby Pregnancy Study. If you choose to join a study, you will not be asked to take any medicines or vaccines or change any part of your routine. To see if you are eligible, visit the MotherToBaby website or call (877) 311-8972 (Toll-Free).
Many organizations are committed to understanding more about medicines and pregnancy and providing helpful resources for women and healthcare providers.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
FDA’s site contains information about taking medicines during pregnancy:
- FDA’s Office of Women’s Health developed a fact sheet about medicines and pregnancy, which is available in English and Spanish.
- FDA maintains an alphabetical index of safety information for specific drugs.
Hosted by the National Library of Medicine, LactMed is a database that contains information about specific medicines, ways they might affect breastfeeding mothers and their babies, and potential alternatives to consider, if needed.
March of Dimes
This webpage provides information related to the use of medicines and herbal products during pregnancy.
MotherToBaby provides information and fact sheets, in English and Spanish, on the risks and safety of taking specific medicines during pregnancy and breastfeeding. To speak with a MotherToBaby counselor about the safety of a medicine you have taken or you are thinking of taking, call 1-866-626-6847. This service is free and confidential.
Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
This website and toll-free call center provide free, reliable health information for women everywhere. The site contains a database of resources and includes topic areas, such as pregnancy and medicine.
- 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.
- Page last reviewed: May 23, 2018
- Page last updated: May 23, 2018
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