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Q&A: Prescription Medication during Pregnancy

Q. I've been taking prescription drugs for a chronic illness for years. Should I stop now that I'm pregnant?

A. You're right to be concerned, because right now your baby's rapidly developing organs are extremely vulnerable. However, you should never stop taking prescription medications without first consulting with your health provider.

Many untreated diseases can be more harmful to your baby than the drugs that treat them.

How will a drug affect your unborn baby? It depends mainly on the characteristics of the drug, how much you take, and when you take it during your pregnancy. Your baby is most susceptible to drugs between 18 days and 55 days after conception. Before the 18-day mark, your body will usually spontaneously abort a damaged embryo. After 55 days your baby is much less apt to be harmed by anything you ingest.

Discuss your medications right away with your health care provider, who might prescribe a safer alternative or change the dose now that you're pregnant. Here's a starter list of medications that aren't safe during pregnancy. Ask your doctor about any that you take that aren't on this list:

  • Some antibiotics, such as tetracycline, doxycycline, streptomycin, and kanamycin. Erythromycin estolate can affect a pregnant woman's liver function. Fluoroquinolones might hurt your baby's developing cartilage and bones.
  • Antiseizure drugs such as carbamazepine and valproic acid.
  • Migraine medications, including ergotamine drugs.
  • Acne medications such as Accutane and other oral vitamin A compounds.
  • Blood thinners such as warfarin.
  • Certain high blood pressure drugs, such as ACE inhibitors captopril and enalapril.
  • Ulcer medications such as Cytotec (misoprostol).
  • Androgens and testosterone products such as danazol.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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