Women's Health
Pregnancy and Medications

​​Overview:

Taking medicines is sometimes inevitable. Nevertheless, when a pregnant woman experiences any health issues, she often wonders whether the medicine she wishes to take is safe, especially when the health issue is temporary (e.g. headache, cold, influenza, etc). Since treatment is necessary, here is what you need to need to do before taking a medicine:
  • Always consult with your doctor before taking any medication. Some drugs may not be safe for pregnancy, and if safe, the dose may need to be adjusted. 
  • Let your doctor know, during your first visit, about any medication you take regularly, and of any chronic conditions you may have, so that you can be prescribed drugs suitable for pregnant women.
  • Make sure you inform any doctor, nurse or pharmacist you consult with that you are pregnant before taking any measure or medicine. 
  • Limit the use of unprescribed drugs or supplements to the lowest possible level. These include analgesics and antipyretics (e.g. Paracetamol), dental treatments (including local anesthetics), some vaccines (e.g. tetanus shots, flu shots) and nicotine replacement therapies.

Impact of medications on the fetus:
The medications taken by the mother will reach the fetus through the placenta that also provides the baby with the food and oxygen needed for growth. Drugs taken without consulting a doctor may:
  • Reach the fetus directly, causing adverse effects, including problems with growth, physical and mental development, or even death;
  • Change the function of the placenta and can often narrow blood vessels, leading to a shortage in the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus;
  • Cause contractions in the uterine muscles, placing pressure on the fetus or resulting in a premature delivery.
Fear of medicines:
It is not safe to stop taking any medication without consulting with a doctor on both the pregnancy and the treatment. Stopping any medication suddenly may result in harm for the mother and the fetus (e.g. stopping blood pressure medication without consulting with a doctor can leave to toxaemia of pregnancy.

Impact of medications on the various pregnancy stages

First trimester:

During this period, the fetus and the organs are being formed. Cases of fetal anomalies often occur at this stage, so it is advisable not to take any medicines other than those proven to be safe for pregnant women. 

Second trimester:

The organs of the fetus are still developing at this stage. Medications during this stage, however, are less dangerous than the previous one. 

Third trimester:

During this stage, most of the fetus’ organs have formed, except the brain and reproductive organs. Therefore, great care should be taken to avoid ingesting anything that might affect hormone levels. Avoid consuming anything that might cause cerebral problems (e.g. narcotics or psychiatric drugs).

What types of medicines are safe to use during pregnancy?
Food supplements:
Pregnant women often need food supplements to compensate for the deficiencies resulting from the lack of nutrient-rich food, and to guarantee that the fetus can grow healthily. They are often prescribed by the doctor at the beginning of a pregnancy. 
Medications for chronic diseases:
Chronic diseases (e.g. asthma, diabetes, hypertension, etc.) should be treated and controlled. The doctor can prescribe an appropriate treatment.
Analgesics:
If used moderately under the doctor’s supervision, analgesics or painkillers (e.g. Paracetamol) can be safe during pregnancy.
Anti-nausea/vomiting drugs:
Vitamin B6 is considered a safe and effective way of treating nausea and vomiting during the first trimester.
Antibiotics:
Some antibiotics from the Penicillin, Cephalosporin and Azithromycin families are considered safe during pregnancy.

Vaccination during pregnancy:
During pregnancy, vaccines containing live viruses should be avoided (e.g. Rubella vaccine). However, seasonal vaccines and immunity-boosting vaccines (e.g. flu shots) are considered safe during pregnancy. Furthermore, pregnant women should receive a flu vaccine during their second and third trimesters of pregnancy to protect them from infections, especially during the flu season. Tetanus shots are also important, given that they protect both mother and baby during delivery. This vaccine reduces the risk of the infant developing tetanus if infected by a microbe during delivery between the 27th and 36th weeks of pregnancy. 

Bath salts
Some bath salts may contain may chemicals that could relax and decompress the muscles. This could lead to a miscarriage or a premature birth. Some products contain salts that can narrow blood vessels, limiting the oxygen and food that reaches the fetus. 

Opioids (pain relievers and analgesics)
Opioids are used during pregnancy to reduce pain (e.g. morphine). However, they can also create a highly analgesic effect and their abuse could lead to addiction. These drugs can easily travel through the placenta to the fetus. Withdrawal symptoms can appear 6 hours to 8 days after delivery on both mother and baby. While the use of prescribed opioids rarely leads to birth defects, their use during labor may affect the fetus and undermine the baby’s ability to breathe after birth. However, if necessary during delivery, minimal doses of opioids can be safely administered. The use of other illegal opioids (e.g. Heroin) increases the risk of complications during pregnancy (e.g. miscarriage, premature birth, underweight or underdeveloped infants).

Alcohol and pregnancy
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is the main cause of birth defects (e.g. malformation of facial features, small head, underdeveloped brain, mental disability, underdeveloped heart). If no birth defects are visible, behavioral issues may arise (e.g. aggressive behavior, ADHD). Alcohol further increases the risk of miscarriage and the newborn is often severely underweight. There is also a risk of death among infants in this case shortly after birth. 

Example of medicines that can be used for simple ailments during pregnancy:
Simple Ailment​​​​​​​​​​​​
First Choice
Second Choice
Avoid Using
Constipation
Eat more foods rich in fiber: green vegetables, ispaghul.
Drink lots of fluids.
Follow the doctor’s guidelines.
​-
Cough
Drink hot water mixed with honey and lemon.
​-
Medicines containing Codeine unless prescribed by a doctor.
Diarrhea
Consume oral hydrating fluids.
​-
​-
Hemorrhoids
Creams or soothing suppositories.
Ice compresses.
​-
Allergies (induced by hay, dust, animal contact, etc.)
Antihistamines through eye drops, nasal sprays,
Steroid nasal sprays​.

Doses of Loratadine or Chlorohistol according to the doctor’s prescription.
Other types of histamine.
Lice
Combing or brushing hair while wet. 
Dimethicone lotion.

Lice treatments containing Malathion diluted in water
​-
Indigestion
Antacids
Drugs that decrease acid production in the stomach: Omeprazole based on the doctor’s instructions
​-
Nose congestion (nasal blockage or discharge)
Indirectly inhaling steam from hot water.
​For severe cases, Oxymetazoline or the nasal spray Xylometazoline.
Phenylephrine and Pseudoephedrine, especially in the first trimester
Sudden pain (headache, toothache, etc.).
Paracetamol
Ibuprofen may be taken in the second trimester only unless the doctor advises otherwise​.
Medicines containing Codeine, unless prescribed by a doctor
Vaginal inflammation or rash
A treatment must be prescribed by a doctor.
Clotrimazole cream based on the doctor’s instructions. No internal tool may be used, especially in the third trimester.
Fluconazole


Clinical Education General Department
For inquiries, contact us by email:
Hpromotion@moh.gov.sa



Content Evaluation
Reading times
Last Update 09 December 2019 09:24 AM
Do you find this content useful? Yes No Suggest
Satisfaction of visitorsA sign of happiness
Satisfaction of visitors Completely satisfied Satisfied Neutral Not Satisfied Completely dissatisfied
This site can be viewed on all screen tones and all smart devices and supports all kinds of browsers
All Rights Reserved – Ministry of Health – Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ©