Drugs and medicines in pregnancy

To be on the safe side it's best to talk to a health professional before taking any new drugs or medicines during pregnancy in case they might have any effect on the growing baby.

I take prescribed medication and I’ve just found out I’m pregnant. What do I do?

You will need advice about your specific medication, so make an urgent appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible to check whether it's safe to use during pregnancy. Several medications or treatments are dangerous to stop suddenly, so keep taking yours until then.

It may be safer to take some medicine than let a condition such as asthma, diabetes or mental health problems go untreated. Alternatively, your doctor may prescribe a different drug treatment that’s safer to use during pregnancy.

I’ve got a nasty cold and headache, is there any over-the-counter remedy that’s safe to take during pregnancy?

As a general rule, assume all medicine is unsafe unless you’ve been told otherwise.

Avoid aspirin completely during pregnancy as it can harm your baby, but if you have a headache, it is usually fine to take the occasional paracetamol. Don’t exceed the recommended dose. Your doctor or pharmacist will be able to advise you.

Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and make hot honey, ginger and lemon drinks to aid decongestion. Wrap up warm and have plenty of rest!

I really like to use aromatherapy oils to help me relax – is there anything I should avoid?

Aromatherapy oils may be 'natural', but they are still strong chemicals, and some are not recommended for use in pregnancy. Not all alternative remedies are safe for pregnant women, so always check first.

If you go to a qualified practitioner, they’ll be trained to advise you on what’s best. Contact the Institute of Complementary and Natural Medicine to find a practitioner in your area.


  1. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Antenatal care: routine care for the healthy pregnant woman, clinical guideline 62, London NICE, 2008
  2. British Medical Association and London Royal Pharmaceutical Society, British National Formulary 62, London BMA and RPS, 2011
  3. Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J, Mayes’ midwifery, fourteenth edition, Edinburgh Bailliere Tindall Elsevier, 2012
  4. Behnke M et al, Prenatal substance abuse: short- and long-term effects on the exposed fetus, Pediatrics 2013; 131(3): e1009–1024
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Last reviewed on April 15th, 2015. Next review date April 15th, 2017.

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