medication in pregnancy

Medication in pregnancy

Confused about taking medication in pregnancy? What’s safe and what’s not?

Pregnancy can bring with it some minor discomforts, most of which can be managed without the need for medication. For
example, upping your intake of water can help with fluid retention and can keep headaches at bay, or a cup of honey, ginger and lemon can soothe a raspy throat; but what are your medicine options when illness hits and becomes unmanageable?

Once you discover you are pregnant, only essential medication should be taken throughout pregnancy. Talking to your doctor should always be your first port of call. If you have been taking prescribed medication prior to discovering you are pregnant, it is important not to stop without first consulting your doctor. In some situations, a pregnant woman will need take medication to treat pre-existing health conditions such as high blood pressure, epilepsy, depression or asthma.

In this situation, such conditions being left untreated could cause harm to a pregnant woman or her baby. A doctor will assess their patient’s situation and balance the risks against the benefits of all medications.

What about antibiotics?

If, during pregnancy, you become ill with a condition that requires an antibiotic, your doctor will prescribe accordingly. It is very important to take the exact dosage for the exact period of time your doctor instructs.

Deciding to reduce your dosage may mean that the medication will not work on you, but may still affect your baby. Don’t frighten yourself by reading the information leaflet that comes with your
medication. Your doctor has considered all of this in prescribing your medication. A doctor will always ensure the benefits outweigh the risks before prescribing medicine for their patient.

Tell your pharmacist you are pregnant

When buying any over-the-counter medication, it’s important to inform your pharmacist that you are pregnant. Some seemingly safe medications may contain a combination of drugs. It’s worth noting too that certain medications, while deemed safe when taken on their own, may pose a risk when combined with another drug.

It is as important to assess your medication intake while trying to conceive as it is during pregnancy. Bear in mind in the very early days the symptoms of pregnancy can easily be confused with a period pain, migraine headaches, or even a gastric bug or the
beginnings of a flu.

Prenatal supplements are safe

While not strictly under the medication umbrella, taking recommended supplements in pregnancy is something else to consider.

medication in pregnancy

Taking folic acid is vital for the development of a fetus in the early stages. Even if you eat a well-balanced diet you may not be getting all of the essential nutrients your body needs from food alone. For at least three months before conceiving and throughout pregnancy, women need 400mcg of folic acid daily.

Folic acid requirements will vary in different cases. In a situation where you have a family history of spina bifida, or any birth defects of the brain or spine, or if you are taking essential long-term medication which may affect the absorption of folic acid, your doctor may give you a prescription for 5mg of folic acid daily. Taking this higher dosage can lower the risk of your baby being born with any of these birth defects.

While you will not get too much folic acid from foods that naturally contain it, you should not consume more than 1,000 mcg of folic acid a day in supplement form, unless specifically instructed by your GP.

Medications common conditions checklist

Before taking any medication always check with your doctor or midwife to make sure it’s safe for you and your baby.

  • Bloating, gas or heartburn – you can take antacids or Simethicone for pain caused by trapped wind.
  • Coughs and colds – can be treated with cough medicines that don’t contain caffeine or alcohol.
  • Headache or mild pain – you can take paracetamol, but never exceed the recommended dose. Avoid anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and don’t take aspirin.
  • Haemorrhoids – there are over the counter or prescribed ointments that can help with relief. If you have diarrhoea or constipation then check with your doctor before taking medication.
  • Yeast infections and fungal infections – can be treated with over the counter creams but some do contain anti-fungal ingredients that shouldn’t be used during pregnancy so ask your pharmacist if you’re in any doubt.

Real Mum’s stories:

“For headaches, I used either a cold facecloth, eye mask or a Kool ‘n’ Soothe patch. I also found staying hydrated helped combat headaches. If it got very bad I took paracetamol. It’s definitely safer to discuss any medication with your pharmacist or GP.”

– Naomi Uí Chathasaigh

“I suffered from severe headaches during
pregnancy due to a preexisting condition. I was even offered Pethidine injections during my pregnancy, but I would always steer clear of anything but paracetamol as I knew it was the safest. It’s not always as effective as you might like, but I always felt that risk outweighed the benefit in terms of painkillers and I never wanted to do anything that might harm my baby!”

– Dee Doherty

More like this:

The dos and donts of pregnancy
Embarrassing symptoms of pregnancy
Eating for two

Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.



Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.