Medicines during pregnancy

Medicines, drugs, pills and potions - what's safe during pregnancy and what's not


Curing common illnesses when you’re pregnancy

While relatively few medicines have been proven positively harmful during pregnancy, most medicines fall into the bracket of those not proven safe either and so caution is advised before taking any medicines at all. Below are some specific recommendations for common ailments but you should also follow these general guidelines: Make sure that both the doctor and chemist know that you are pregnant before you take any medications recommended by them, the same goes for anyone else who may be treating you medically at any point during your pregnancy. It’s also important that your dentist is aware that you’re pregnant as some dental treatments may not be safe, such as x-rays. You should also check that herbal remedies, aromatherapy and homeopathic treatments are safe for pregnant women before you use them.


As many drugs aren’t proven harmful, in some cases your doctor may decide that the health benefit to you outweighs the theoretical potential risk to your baby, and may prescribe a medicine that you would otherwise be advised to avoid.


Insomnia is a common pregnancy complaint that many women experience as their bumps make nights more uncomfortable, but it can also strike in early pregnancy. It’s best to avoid all sleeping tablets and herbal remedies – although some herbal teas are specifically designed and safe for use during pregnancy, – and to focus on natural ways of promoting sleepiness, like taking a warm bath before bed or drinking warm milk. Find out more on coping with insomnia

Headache, aches and pains:

If you usually reach for an Ibruprofen or Nurofen when you’re suffering aches and pains then you’ll need to make a switch in pregnancy. You also shouldn’t take aspirin unless it is specifically recommended by your doctor for your pregnancy. If you can get by without any painkillers then all the better – sometimes you can sleep off a headache or drown out aches with a long soak. If these aren’t available luxuries then the occasional paracetemol won’t do your baby any harm: Frequent usage, however, is not recommended.

Some women who suffer from migraines may find that these disappear during pregnancy, others may find that they are more common. If you know that you’re a migraine sufferer then talk to your doctor as soon as you can about medication that’s safe to take during pregnancy. More on headaches and migraines in pregnancy.


Constipation is a very common pregnancy complaint. It can be brought on by pregnancy hormones slowing down the digestive system and also by iron supplements – if you need to take them. If you can it’s best to deal with pregnancy constipation through diet: increasing your fibre intake and drinking plenty of fluids. Some laxatives can be harmful during pregnancy so don’t take laxatives unless recommended expressly by your doctor. Find out more about pregnancy constipation


If you’re unlucky enough to have a stomach upset during pregnancy then you’ll want to avoid medications designed to put an end to the loose bowel movements like Imodium. Treatments designed to rehydrate your system are usually fine (check with your doctor or chemist for specific brands). It’s important that you keep drinking plenty of fluids to replace the fluids you lose through the illness and it’s probably a good idea to consult your doctor over a badly upset stomach.

Colds and flu:

If you take flu and cold remedies then make sure that they contain paracetemol only as many contain a combination of pain killers. Alternatively you can make a natural hot lemon with lemon juice in hot water, sweetened with a little honey and take it along with a paracetemol and/or a vitamin c tablet. For congested systems and blocked noses avoid decongestants and try a vapour rub or menthol and eucalyptus oils dropped into a basin of warm water or in your bath to steam your system, or drop a little oil onto your pillow to decongest during the night. Find out more about what to do if you get a cold or flu, or contract swine flu while pregnant. You may also want to consider a flu jab.

If you’re finding it difficult to shake off a cold or flu then make sure you see your doctor in case you have a secondary infection.


Most cough lozenges are safe for use in pregnancy (though you should double-check if the lozenges are medicated), cough mixtures however, often contain medicines that you should avoid, so always check with your doctor or pharmacist for a pregnancy-safe option. As with colds and flu, drinking lemon in hot water with honey should help soothe your throat.


Take it easy

Whenever you feel ill when you’re pregnant then take good care of yourself: Make sure you get plenty of rest and take time off from work if need be, and as long as you need to fully recover, this is a time when you need to put your baby, not work, first.

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