Pharmacist explains which medications are safe and not safe for pregnant women

Pregnant women are advised against eating certain foods while they are expecting, and the same is true for certain medications.

You can continue using some medications that you used prior to pregnancy, but certain things may harm your baby.

Discount Drug Stores’ pharmacist Melissa Hui explains to The Healthy Mummy which medications are safe and not safe for pregnant women to take.

Fighting A Cold With Food When Pregnant 1

What medications should women steer clear of while pregnant and why? 

Before you consider taking any type of medicine or remedy during pregnancy, it is most important to seek advice from your local pharmacist, doctor or midwife, says Melissa.

“There are some common over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen and cold and flu tablets that are considered unsafe and should be avoided during pregnancy. This is because the active ingredients in these medicines may cause harmful effects to the development of an unborn baby,” she explains.

“Most over-the-counter medicines will state on the packaging whether it is safe or not to take when pregnant or planning to become pregnant.  If a medicine does not clearly indicate if it is safe to take during pregnancy, you should always ask your pharmacist or health professional.”

If your doctor is going to prescribe any medication for a symptom, you must inform them that you are currently pregnant, suspect you may be pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant in the near future.

Vitamins new

Are herbal supplements safe?

Another misconception is that ‘natural or herbal remedies are safe’ reveals Melissa.

“You should treat any herbal medicines, vitamins and supplements the same as medicines when pregnant,” she says.

“There are many herbal medicines and vitamins that can also cause negative effects to your unborn baby.”

Thrush is a common occurrence during pregnancy, how can you treat this?

Vaginal Candida (known as “thrush”) is a common fungal infection that can affect three out of four women at some point in their life.  

“Pregnant women are more at risk of developing thrush due to increased levels of female hormones, such as oestrogen.  Thrush generally does not cause any harm during pregnancy and can be treated easily with anti-fungal thrush treatments except for oral capsules,” says Melissa.

Whilst anti-fungal oral capsules are the most convenient treatment for thrush, it is not suitable to take when pregnant or breastfeeding. However, you can use topical thrush treatments such as cream or pessaries. 

“These preparations normally contain an anti-fungal ingredient, such as clotrimazole, and come in varying types of formulations, such as three or six day creams, six day pessaries, and generally with disposable applicators.”

When using a topical thrush formulation, it is important to follow the directions included and complete the full course. For example, it is important to use a six day cream for six consecutive days until you have applied the entire tube of cream, even if your symptoms disappear.

Some women may feel uncomfortable inserting the disposable applicator, especially in later stages of pregnancy, so it may be better to insert pessaries or apply cream by hand instead.

There are also non-medicinal measures pregnant women can do to prevent thrush from occurring. These include wearing cotton underwear rather than synthetic materials such as nylon, changing out of damp swimwear or active wear immediately after exercise or water activities, changing incontinence pads regularly, and avoiding tight clothing especially during warmer weather.  

Young pregnant woman holding and touching her belly, close-up

Can pregnant women take paracetamol if they are suffering from a headache?

Paracetamol is generally considered safe to take during pregnancy for headaches and other general pain symptoms, says Melissa.

“However, you should also ask your pharmacist, doctor or midwife first before taking this medicine or if your symptoms persist without relief,” she reveals.

“Common causes of headaches during pregnancy include dehydration, stress and muscle tension. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, eating well-balanced meals, regular gentle exercise and getting a neck and shoulder massage can help prevent and relieve headaches without the use of medicines.”

Is Gaviscon safe to take when you’re pregnant and suffering from heartburn? 

Gaviscon is an antacid that can be helpful in treating acid reflux (known as ‘heartburn’) and indigestion, especially during pregnancy.

“It is generally safe to take during pregnancy, however, you should also ask your pharmacist, doctor or midwife first before taking this medicine or if your symptoms persist without relief,” says Melissa.

Adjusting some lifestyle habits are often most effective to reduce reflux and are safest during pregnancy. Some lifestyle tips include:

  • Eating smaller meals but more frequently.
  • Chewing each bite of food more thoroughly.
  • Drinking water during and in between meals.
  • Avoid lying down straight after a meal or snack. Stay upright for at least an hour after food or taking a leisurely walk outside or around the house to aid digestion.
  • Elevate your upper body with pillows when sleeping, adjust them to your comfort level.


What are the complications if you take a medication you shouldn’t without realising?

If you suspect you have taken a medicine that is considered unsafe, or you are unsure whether it is unsafe during pregnancy, you should seek advice from your local pharmacist, doctor or midwife as soon as possible.  

If you cannot reach a health professional immediately, you can call 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for any information regarding prescription, over-the-counter and complementary (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamin and mineral) medicines.

Should pregnant women speak to their pharmacist before buying anything?

Most minor ailments can be treated with non-medicinal therapies or treatments, and always provide a safer option during pregnancy, explains Melissa.

“If you are unsure of what these are, you can always seek advice from a pharmacist, doctor or midwife. If you are advised to take a medication, always read the label and follow the instructions on the packaging or as per the advice given by a health professional,” Melissa adds.

“If a medicine or remedy does not clearly state if is it safe or unsafe during pregnancy or breastfeeding, always seek advice before purchasing or consumption.” 

Thanks Mel for this helpful information.

If you are unsure what medication you can take while expecting, be sure to check with your GP or pharmacist.

pregnancy smoothie

Are you currently pregnant? Then you should try our yummy Healthy Mummy Pregnancy smoothie.

The Healthy Mummy Pregnancy Smoothie is designed to complement, not replace, your prenatal vitamin intake. Our nutritionists ensured that the vitamins and minerals in the smoothie are at a low level so there is no risk of doubling up on any pregnancy vitamins.

It is ideal as a high-protein, high-calcium snack in pregnancy. You can download the Pregnancy Smoothie Label here.

To purchase yours, click here.

*Please note that The Healthy Mummy Pregnancy range promotes healthy weight gain in pregnancy*


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