Over-the-counter medications in pregnancy

Jessica Servey*, Jennifer Chang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations

Abstract

Many pregnant women take over-the-counter (OTC) medications despite the absence of randomized controlled trials to guide their use during pregnancy. Most data come from case-control and cohort studies. In 1979, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began reviewing all prescription and OTC medications to develop risk categories for use in pregnancy. Most OTC medications taken during pregnancy are for allergy, respiratory, gastrointestinal, or skin conditions, as well as for general analgesia. Acetaminophen, which is used by about 65% of pregnant women, is generally considered safe during any trimester. Cold medications are also commonly used and are considered safe for short-term use outside of the first trimester. Many gastrointestinal medications are now available OTC. Histamine H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors have not demonstrated significant fetal effects. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are generally not recommended in pregnancy, especially during organogenesis and in the third trimester. There are even fewer data regarding use of individual herbal supplements. Ginger is considered safe and effective for treating nausea in pregnancy. Topical creams are considered safe based on small studies and previous practice. All OTC medication use should be discussed with patients, and the effects of the symptoms should be balanced with the risks and benefits of each medication. Because of the expanding OTC market, formalized studies are warranted for patients to make a safe and informed decision about OTC medication use during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)548-555
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Family Physician
Volume90
Issue number8
StatePublished - 15 Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes

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