If you're not feeling well, talk to your doctor before you try an over-the-counter remedy, says ob-gyn Linda Chambliss, M.D., a specialist in maternal-fetal medicine at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, in Phoenix. Many haven't been tested on pregnant women or have shown some risk to the fetus. This is her take on the safest ways to treat symptoms.
Ease headache and fever: Stick to regular-strength acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). Avoid ibuprofen (like Motrin) and other anti-inflammatories like naproxen (found in Aleve), which may cause fetal heart problems or reduce the amount of amniotic fluid around your baby, especially in the third trimester.
Soothe a cough: Try honey or cough drops, which coat and soothe the throat. Most cough syrups are category C drugs (they haven't been tested on humans and animal studies have shown some risk to the fetus). So talk to your doctor first.
Stop a stuffy or runny nose: Saline sprays and washes are your best bet, says Dr. Chambliss. Most other decongestants work by constricting your blood vessels, which can reduce blood flow to the fetus. Some doctors allow their patients to use a decongestant nasal spray for a few days, since the medicine mostly stays in the nose, or Benadryl, a category B antihistamine that's presumed safe based on animal studies.
Battle bacterial infections: If you have an infection that's not resolving on its own, your doctor may prescribe a category B antibiotic such as penicillin, erythromycin, amoxicillin, or azithromycin. Make sure you avoid tetracycline, doxycycline, and minocycline, because they can discolor a baby's teeth.
Originally published in the November 2010 issue of Parents magazine.
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