Wellness·4 min read

Once And For All: Here Are The Medications You Can (And Can't) Take While Pregnant

Pregnant women sitting and looking at a pill bottle
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Jan 11, 2023

If you’re pregnant, you might be wondering if you can reach for your go-to pain reliever for a headache. Or any cold medicine when you feel congested. But the reality is not all medications are safe to take during pregnancy. And it’s one of the many things you should ask your doctor about. But for a general list of medications you can take while pregnant, we talked to Dr. Alexander Chiang, an OB-GYN at UCLA.

Expert interviewed:

Dr. Alexander Chiang

Dr. Alexander Chiang is a board certified OB-GYN at UCLA Health.

Which medicine can I take while pregnant?

Got a headache, heartburn, or allergies? You should have a conversation with your doctor about your specific pregnancy to double check before you take anything. Because medications you take may pass through the placenta and affect your baby. The good news is, there are typically plenty of OTC medications you can take while pregnant. Here’s what you can typically reach for:

Pregnancy-safe pain relievers

  • Advil (ibuprofen) for up to 20 weeks of pregnancy

  • Motrin (ibuprofen) for up to 20 weeks of pregnancy 

  • Aleve (naproxen) for up to 20 weeks of pregnancy

  • Tylenol (acetaminophen)

Pregnancy-safe allergy medications

  • Benadryl (diphenhydramine)

  • Claritin (loratadine)

  • Zyrtec (cetirizine)

  • Mucinex (guaifenesin)

Pregnancy-safe cold and flu medications

  • Cough drops 

  • Robitussin (dextromethorphan)

  • Saline nasal rinses (nasal spray or nose drops)

  • Menthol rubs (like Vicks Vaporub)

Pregnancy-safe heartburn medications

  • Tums (calcium carbonate)

  • Titralac (calcium carbonate)

  • Pepcid (famotidine)

  • Mylanta (calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, simethicone)

Pregnancy-safe sleep aids

  • Unisom (doxylamine) 

  • Benadryl (diphenhydramine)

  • Melatonin (Note: Experts say that melatonin is “probably” safe to take during pregnancy — but there hasn’t been enough research to understand the potential risks.) 

Pregnancy-safe stomach and digestion medications

  • Dramamine (dimenhydrinate)

  • Miralax (polyethylene glycol)

PS: We made a printable and downloadable version of this list for you here. Feel free to screenshot it or print it out and put it on your refrigerator.

Which vitamins and supplements can I take while pregnant?

Your doctor may have you take prenatal vitamins, which are multivitamins that contain many of the nutrients you need. And you may not need anything additional. So be sure to run any supplements by your doctor before taking them — especially because supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA as medications. Here is what’s generally safe to take:

  • Prenatal vitamins

  • Magnesium 

  • Emergen-C (vitamin C)

  • Vitamin B6

  • Folic acid

  • Vitamin D

  • Iron

  • Calcium

  • Ginger

  • Zinc

Which medications/supplements are not safe to take while pregnant?

If you've got any of the following in your medicine cabinet, experts say you'll want to steer clear of 'em for the next few months. 

  • Excedrin (aspirin)

  • Bayer (aspirin) 

  • NyQuil (phenylephrine and alcohol)

  • Sudafed (pseudoephedrine hydrochloride)

  • Vitamin A

What about prescription meds?

Your doctor knows best. If you’re on prescription medications — for anxiety, depression, ADHD, or anything else — ask your doc if you can keep taking them during pregnancy. And if you’re trying to get pregnant, Dr. Chiang recommends having a “preconception consultation” with your doctor to “go through all your questions, your medical history, and the medications that you're on.” 

theSkimm

Pregnancy changes so much about your life — from the things you can eat, to what you wear, to the medications you can take. When it comes to you and your baby’s health, it’s OK (and a good idea) to question everything. And always ask your doctor first. 

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not constitute a medical opinion, medical advice, or diagnosis or treatment of any particular condition. 


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