Pregnant Women's Health
While many medications help treat various health conditions, they can cause adverse reactions when used during pregnancy. Some of these drugs may need to be tapered back or even stopped when a woman is pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant. A lack of precaution can put a mother and baby at risk for dangerous health complications.
About Pregnant Women's Health
The safety and use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs is extremely important for women who are currently pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant. Some medicines can not only impact a mother’s health, but also her baby’s growth and development. Unfortunately, there have been few studies about the effects of medicine on pregnancies and unborn fetuses.
Prenatal care involves frequent checkups with your doctor during pregnancy, as well as various screening tests to assess the baby’s health. Generally, monthly appointments are required for the first 28 weeks of pregnancy and will increase to more frequent visits during the last trimester. Doctor appointments allow women to learn about the different stages of pregnancy and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle while pregnant. For example, many healthcare professionals recommend taking vitamins that contain folic acid, calcium and iron to provide a good balance of nutrients for both mother and baby.
A woman’s physical and emotional health can greatly influence the outcome of a pregnancy. Watching what you eat, getting adequate sleep and reducing your stress are all factors that can increase your chances of having a problem-free pregnancy. There are also a range of foods and activities you should avoid while pregnant such as cleaning with household chemicals that contain toxic substances, raw fish and undercooked meat. Talk with your doctor about what is beneficial for your pregnancy, as well as what can potentially put you or your baby in danger.
How Drugs can Impact Pregnant Women's Health
A large percentage of women in the U.S. take prescription and nonprescription drugs while pregnant. However, some of these drugs can have serious side effects on a developing baby’s mind and body. In fact, between two to three percent of birth defects are related to medicines that were used to treat a woman’s health condition.
When a drug is consumed, it can impact the fetus and placenta. Side effects may vary depending on the chemical makeup of the medicine. For instance, a lack of blood flow limits how much oxygen and nutrients the baby receives. This can cause extensive damage to a fetus, leading to birth defects or even death. Other risks include preterm labor, which is when a baby is born prematurely, and health complications that can put a mother on bedrest until she gives birth.
Unfortunately, there have been few studies conducted to examine how certain medicines can affect a pregnancy. Because of this, a number of drugs on the market may not be safe for mothers and unborn babies. Consult with your doctor before taking any type of drug – regardless of whether it’s a prescription, herbal remedy or other type of over-the-counter supplement.
Medications for Nausea and Vomiting
Roughly half of all pregnant women will experience some type of nausea or vomiting during their pregnancy. This is due to the changes the body is experiencing, such as a shift in hormones and added stress or fatigue. Typically, nausea is one of the first signs of pregnancy and usually lasts during the first trimester. Sometimes though, it can continue past the first trimester and remain throughout the entire pregnancy.
Anti-nausea medication drugs including Phenergan, Reglan and Zofran may be used to help relieve symptoms of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. These are commonly prescribed for a short period of time to alleviate morning sickness. While there are benefits to taking an anti-nausea medication, the drug can also trigger unwanted effects. Some side effects, like drowsiness, dizziness, muscle weakness and irritability, are minor and last temporarily. On the other hand, severe effects that have been linked to anti-nausea medications include birth defects, memory problems, irregular breathing, heart problems, loss of bladder control and seizures.
Many women try other means to prevent nausea prior to taking any form of drug. Avoiding smells that create nausea, getting plenty of sleep, and taking vitamin B-6 and other prenatal vitamins are all ways to help treat nausea symptoms. Ask your doctor about natural remedies that can provide you with relief while keeping your baby safe.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Every day, millions of Americans – including pregnant women – treat headaches, muscle aches and reduce swelling with NSAIDs. NSAIDs, including Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Naproxen, and others, are used to relieve minor to moderate pain. But some medical professionals advise pregnant women to refrain from taking these medications to reduce the risk of any complications.
Over the years, there has been conflicting information as to whether or not NSAIDs are harmful to a fetus. For instance, a number of studies suggest that taking an NSAID can increase the chances of a miscarriage or lead to cardiac deficiencies in newborn babies. Others state that the use of NSAIDs is safe, but women should refrain from taking them within the last six to eight weeks of pregnancy.
Discuss any questions or concerns you may have about NSAIDs with your doctor before taking any medicine. If you experience negative side effects, contact your healthcare provider or seek immediate medical attention.
Anti-anxiety Drugs and Antidepressants
Women who struggle with anxiety or depression often wonder how their prescription drugs will affect their pregnancy. It’s estimated that between seven to 23 percent of pregnant women have been diagnosed with depression. Rather than stopping the medicine cold turkey, many doctors will either keep a woman’s dose the same or start to taper it back in light of a pregnancy. This helps keep a mother’s hormones balanced while her body adjusts to pregnancy.
Symptoms of anxiety and depression can cause harm to both a mother and her baby. For example, some women may not eat or sleep for days which can affect the development of a fetus. Stress and depression also increase the risk of preterm labor, defined as giving birth before you reach 37 weeks of pregnancy. Because of this, it’s essential for women to take care of their mental well-being while pregnant.
Antidepressants and antianxiety drugs like Prozac, Zoloft and Cymbalta are said to come with very low risks for pregnant women. Although there is no guarantee that they will not cause problems, the drugs allow mothers to feel their best and cope with feelings of depression. However, in rare circumstances, babies have developed serious health conditions due to an antidepressant. These range from rare birth defects to newborn lung problems and developmental delays. Talk with your healthcare professional or psychiatrist before or in the early stages of pregnancy to determine the best form of treatment.
Heart and High Blood Pressure Medications
Women with heart problems or high blood pressure may be required to continue taking their medication while pregnant. In cases such as these, frequent follow-up care visits are recommended to monitor your and your baby’s health. This is to make sure that the fetus receives the proper amount of oxygen and nutrients it needs to grow.
Even without pre-existing heart conditions, a woman can develop problems during pregnancy. For example, a person’s heart rate and blood volume both increase when during pregnancy. This requires the heart to work harder, causing additional stress on the muscle. Because of this, your doctor will need to closely monitor any changes to your heart’s health while you’re pregnant.
Although heart medications are important to keeping your heart rate and blood pressure consistent, they can sometimes lower your blood pressure too much. If this happens, the blood flowing into the placenta will be reduced and potentially cause harm to the fetus. In addition, certain drugs used to treat heart conditions may lead to birth defects, abnormal heart rhythms and kidney damage. Make sure you consult with your doctor before taking any new medications or stopping the use of a drug during pregnancy.
Last Edited: January 19, 2017
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