Get rid of aspirin (which can cross the placental membrane and, in large doses, possibly cause heart problems for your baby), and avoid naproxen sodium and ibuprofen as well. Those pain relievers -- if they're taken in large doses -- can also be dangerous for the fetus. Instead, put Tylenol (acetaminophen) in their place. While two recent European studies have raised concerns about taking acetaminophen in pregnancy, more research is needed. Plus, experts say there are some situations, such as with fever, where the potential risk to a fetus from a mother not taking acetaminophen may be greater than that of taking it--and it's still considered safer than many other medications.
Antacids relieve heartburn, to which expectant moms are particularly prone. The muscle that keeps the stomach and esophagus separated relaxes due to pregnancy hormones, according to Owen Montgomery, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. As a result, stomach acid escapes to the esophagus. You'll probably feel it more in the later months when your baby is bigger and puts pressure on your internal organs, especially when you lie down. Dr. Montgomery recommends liquid antacids because they coat the esophagus on the way down. But some tablets can also be a good source of calcium, so a few of them won't hurt.
Over-the-Counter Medications During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?
Calcium tablets (as well as calcium-rich foods) help keep your body's supply of the mineral from dropping too low. In order to build your baby's bones, your body will actually "steal" calcium from your own bones if you're not ingesting enough. Beyond that, says Lewis B. Curet, MD, director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of New Mexico, a gram a day may help prevent preeclampsia (the narrowing of the small arteries of pregnant women, resulting in high blood pressure), according to some studies. Audrey Buxbaum, MD, of Downtown Women Ob/Gyn, in New York City, advises not to swallow calcium and iron supplements together or your body won't absorb either.
Hemorrhoid medication soothes and reduces pain and swelling. Hemorrhoids, which are varicose veins in the rectum, are common in pregnant women because the uterus puts pressure on the veins leading to the pelvic area, causing blood to pool in the legs, vulva, and rectum, notes Dr. Curet. For relief, he suggests placing medicated pads directly on the swollen areas. (Tucks pads contain witch hazel, which is soothing.) Or try other over-the-counter remedies. Stool softeners or fiber supplements can help prevent the constipation that can worsen hemorrhoids.
Iron tablets help you maintain hemoglobin, which carries oxygen through your blood so you don't become anemic. According to certified nurse-midwife Emalie Gibbons-Baker, who works at Elizabeth Seton Childbearing Center in New York City, iron is vital for your energy and strength and for your growing baby. It becomes increasingly important as your blood volume grows (and you'll be pumping 40 percent more blood through your body during late pregnancy), so iron is especially necessary as you enter your final trimester.
Prenatal vitamins with folic acid taken daily bolster nutrition and can prevent birth defects. The average American diet doesn't provide adequate amounts of vitamins A, C, D, or B, or iron and folic acid, Dr. Montgomery explains. Folic acid is especially important for preventing birth defects such as spina bifida, as well as premature birth. Even if your diet includes plenty of folate-rich vegetables -- such as spinach, broccoli, and peas -- as well as orange juice, your body may not be able to absorb folate as well as it can absorb the synthetic version -- folic acid -- found in prenatal vitamins.
Reviewed 11/02 by Elizabeth Stein, CNM.
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