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Pregnant woman with a cold thinking about taking medicine

Pregnant woman with a cold thinking about taking medicine
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Medicines during pregnancy

3-minute read

If you are thinking about taking a medicine while you’re pregnant, there are a few things to consider.

This is because your baby’s growth and development can be affected by what you put into your body. Each medicine is different. To make the best decision for you and your baby, learn what you need to be aware of.

What should I be aware of when taking medicines during pregnancy?

While many medicines are safe, a small number can harm your baby. The effect of the medicine on your baby can also depend on the stage of your pregnancy.

Tell your doctor, specialist or pharmacist as soon as possible (preferably when planning your pregnancy), about any medicines you take or are planning to take.

Should I stop taking my prescription medicines if I'm pregnant?

It’s not safe to stop taking any prescription medicines until you have spoken to your doctor or specialist. This is because stopping treatment of certain conditions might cause problems that can affect you and your baby. Such conditions include:

You might find that your doctor doesn’t change your medicine. If your doctor thinks a medicine will cause more harm than the condition itself, then they may change the medicine or the dose, or stop treatment altogether.

Are non-prescription or over-the-counter medicines safe to take when pregnant?

During your pregnancy, you will probably have some colds, sore throats and headaches. In these situations, you might choose not to take any cold and flu medicines, pain relievers or any other non-prescription medicines for the safety of your baby.

If you do decide to take something, you will need to check whether it’s safe, as you would for prescription medicines. Ask your doctor or pharmacist. However, do not take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain killers (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and aspirin, which can cause complications to your pregnancy.

Paracetamol, which is not an NSAID, is usually recommended as a safer choice than ibuprofen but check the reason for pain with your midwife, doctor or pharmacist.

Will herbal supplements and vitamins affect my pregnancy?

Some herbal supplements and vitamins can still affect your pregnancy and your baby. Before taking anything - whether a prescription medicine or not - it’s best to check with your doctor or pharmacist.

Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s safe.

Where to get more information

Sometimes it's unclear if a medicine or supplement is safe to use when you are pregnant. Before taking any medicine during pregnancy, get advice from your pharmacist or doctor.

Also look at the packaging or read the Consumer Medicine Information leaflet (CMI). Ask your pharmacist if one is available. You can also search for medicines and their CMIs by brand name or active ingredient in healthdirect's medicine section.

There are organisations you can contact in your state or territory such as:

  • National: healthdirect on 1800 022 222 to speak to a registered nurse
  • NSW: MotherSafe, based at the Royal Hospital for Women Randwick, on 1800 647 848
  • ACT: ACT Alcohol and other drug service at the Canberra Hospital on (02) 6207 9977
  • Victoria: Royal Women's Hospital Drugs Information Service on (03) 8345 3190 or Monash Medical Centre Drug Information Centre (03) 9594 2361
  • South Australia: Medicines and Drug Information Centre, Women's and Children's Hospital on (08) 8161 7222
  • Western Australia: Obstetric Medicines Information Service, King Edward Memorial Hospital on (08) 6458 2723
  • NT: Northern Territory Drug Information Centre, Royal Darwin Hospital on (08) 8922 8424.

You can also call NPS MedicineWise on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) from anywhere in Australia.

Last reviewed: March 2018

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