Your pregnancy medicine cabinet

Our guide to safe pregnancy medicines

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  • Your pregnancy medicine cabinet

    Pregnancy should be a happy time, but unless you're one of the lucky ones, it's likely you'll experience a health niggle or two. 'Common complaints range from nausea and mouth ulcers, to piles,' say Prima Baby's Dr Rob Hicks. With some over-the-counter remedies off-limits in pregnancy, you need to think twice before using your usual creams or pills. 'It's important to know what's safe and what's not,' says Dr Rob. 'Make sure you seek professional advice if you're unsure about anything.'

  • Queasiness

    Nausea affects around 70% of mums-to-be. It's thought to be caused by hormonal changes and fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

    What you can do: Eat and drink little and often. If you feel sick first thing, have toast soon after waking up.

  • Eczema

    Some women find their eczema worsens in pregnancy; others say their skin is unusually sensitive.

    What you can do: See your GP if you have chronically or newly itchy skin. This could be linked to a liver problem called obstetric cholestasis.

    What's safe: Emollients such as aqueous cream, E45 or Oilatum. Or try Weleda Skin Food, great for dry, irritated patches, from £4.95 for 30ml, weleda.co.uk.

    Avoid: Steroid creams with hydrocortisone, and Eumovate, unless advised by your GP.

  • Headaches

    Pregnancy hormones can make you susceptible.

    What can you do: Drink lots of water and try to relax. Get checked out if paracetamol isn't helping and your vision is affected, as this may be a sign of the serious pregnancy condition pre-eclampsia.

    What's safe: The odd paracetamol

    Avoid: Anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and caffeine.

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  • Backache

    Many mums-to-be suffer from backache. This is because your bump pulls the lower spine forwards so it curves, straining your lower back.

    What can you do: Sit and stand up straight, and get lots of rest. Gentle exercise may help, too.

    What's safe: Hot water bottles, paracetamol and heat pads.

    Avoid: Anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, or aspirin.

  • Infections

    You're more susceptible to urine infections such as cystitis as the pregnancy hormone progesterone means your bladder doesn't empty as well, leaving bacteria to multiply.

    What you can do: Ask your GP for a urine test if you feel a burning sensation or find it hard to wee. Water and cranberry juice can help. In bad cases, you may need antibiotics.

  • Inflated ankles

    Swollen ankles and fingers are due to retaining extra fluid, which helps your body soften as the baby grows. However, sudden swelling can indicate pre-eclampsia (particularly if it affects the face and hands).

    What you can do: Avoid standing for a long time and lie with your feet raised above your hips at the end of the day.

  • Coughs and colds

    Your lowered immunity can make you prone to sniffles.

    What you can do: Steam helps clear a stuffy nose; gargling with sea water can ease sore throats.

    What's safe: Cough lozenges on a doctor's or pharmacist's advice, and paracetamol.

    Avoid: Big doses of vitamin C (no more than 60mg a day); Lemsip and Benylin (unless advised by GP); and anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen.

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  • Gum problems

    Increased blood supply along with pregnancy hormones can make your gums prone to bleeding and infection.

    What you can do: Go for a check-up - NHS dental care is free when you're pregnant. Floss and brush carefully.

    What's safe: Bonjela (but avoid in the last trimester) and Anbesol.

  • Flu and fever

    A very high temperature in the first few weeks could raise the risk of miscarriage. See your GP if you're still feeling ill after a few days.

    What you can do: Rest and drink fluids.

    What's safe: The odd paracetamol.

    Avoid: Anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen.

  • Piles

    Pregnancy hormones cause the walls and valves of the veins around your anus to relax and stretch. Constipation can aggravate them.

    What's safe: Preparation H.

    Avoid: Anusol HC.

  • Pelvic aches

    One in 35 mums-to-be suffer pelvic girdle pain (PGP, formerly known as symphysis pubis dysfunction or SPD), which causes severe pain around the groin, thighs, lower back and hips.

    What you can do: Ask your GP for a referral to a health professional with experience in treating PGP. You may be offered a pelvic support belt.

    What's safe: The odd paracetamol.

    Avoid: Aspirin, and anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen.

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  • Heartburn

    Two-thirds of pregnant women suffer from indigestion.

    What you can do: Eat little and often, avoiding rich, fatty or spicy foods; stay upright after eating; do some gentle exercise.

    What's safe: Gaviscon.

  • Stretchmarks

    Caused by weakening skin fibres, which may be due to rapid weight gain or pregnancy hormones.

    What you can do: Keep skin well-moisturised with products that include ingredients such as almond oil and vitamin E. Try Bio-Oil, £8.99 for 60ml, boots.com.

  • Constipation

    Hormones relax your intestinal muscles, slowing your digestive system. Also, your growing womb puts pressure on your bowel.

    What you can do: Eat fibre-rich fruit, veg and wholemeal bread. Drink lots of water.

    What's safe: Fibre supplements such as Fybogel or Laculose.

    Avoid: Laxatives, unless prescribed.

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