Taking medicines in pregnancy – what is safe to take?

The advice to pregnant women is to avoid taking any medicines in pregnancy  if at all possible. If you do need to take medication, check with your midwife of doctor first, or ask your pharmacist for information on over the counter drugs. The list below offers some guidance.


Antiemetics are prescribed to prevent nausea and vomiting usually for women that suffer severe morning sickness. Your doctor will recommend one that is safe to take during pregnancy.


These are drugs that are usually taken to prevent allergy symptom such as itchy eyes, rashes and sneezing. Most of these should be avoided during pregnancy. If you have severe hayfever, chat to your doctor about safe medications in pregnancy


If natural remedies, such as a head massage to relieve a headache, or warm bath to ease backache don’t work, then paracetamol is generally considered safe for short term use in pregnancy. Ibuprofen and aspirin should be avoided altogether unless specifically prescribed by a doctor.


There are antibiotics that are safe for use in pregnancy. Penicillin based ones are usually prescribed, or if you have an allergy to these, there are other safe alternatives. The following ones should be avoided in pregnancy:

  • Tetracyclines – These can affect the development of a baby’s bones and teeth. It may lead to discolouration of the teeth.
  • Streptomycin – This can cause damage to the ears of the growing fetus and result in hearing loss so should be avoided in pregnancy
  • Sulphonamides – These cause jaundice in the baby and should not be given in pregnancy



If you are suffering from constipation, try natural dietary remedies first such as eating fibre and plenty of fluids. If these don’t work then over the counter laxatives are safe to take during pregnancy. Ones that contain bulking agents are the best.


Heatburn is a common problem in late pregnancy due to the pressure of the baby on the stomach. Antacids are generally safe to take but avoid sodium bicarbonate as the sodium is absorbed into the bloodstream.



These are water retention tablets that should be avoided. If you have sudden swelling in your face, hands or feet, you should talk to your midwife or doctor as this is one of the signs of pre-eclampsia

Cold and Flu remedies

As these are remedies which often contain a variety of ingredients, which can include antihistamines and other decongestants that are best avoided in pregnancy, it’s important to check the label carefully and talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any of these. Try natural remedies such as steam inhalations before resorting to medicines.



Anabolic steroids should not be used in pregnancy. It’s safe to use mild steroid creams short term for eczema, although avoid using these over a large surface area. Steroid asthma inhalers are safe, as are the steroids prescribed for other conditions if your doctor knows you’re pregnant