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Taking medicines in pregnancy

If you are thinking of taking a medicine while you’re pregnant, there are a few things to consider.

3 min read

Can I take medicines during pregnancy?

Medicines should be used during pregnancy only when they’re needed. Many medicines can be taken while you are pregnant, but it’s important to check with your health professional first. Sometimes it’s possible to relieve symptoms without medicines.

At other times, it may be essential to continue using a medicine, such as when the medicine helps to manage a long-term condition like asthma, diabetes, depression, or seizures. Without the medicine, your health or your baby’s health could be put at risk.

There are some medicines that should be used with caution or avoided during pregnancy. You should always talk to your doctor or health professional about using medicines when you are pregnant.

Call the Medicines Line

If you are pregnant, or planning a pregnancy, and have questions about medicines, you can call the Medicines Line on 1300 633 424 or 1300 MEDICINE (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm AEST) for advice about medicines (prescription, over-the-counter and complementary).

How do medicines cause harm during pregnancy?

Medicines that cause harm during pregnancy do so in various ways.

  • Some are transported across the placenta and can interfere with the baby’s development.
  • Others can damage the placenta and restrict the amount of nourishment delivered to the baby.
  • Some can increase the risk of miscarriage or bring on premature labour.
  • Others may have side effects like drowsiness that affect the baby around the time of birth.

It’s important to ask questions as you plan your pregnancy, and to make sure you get the right information about medicines at all stages of your pregnancy. 

Call the Medicines Line

If you are pregnant, or planning a pregnancy, and have questions about medicines, you can call the Medicines Line on 1300 633 424 or 1300 MEDICINE (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm AEST) for advice about medicines (prescription, over-the-counter and complementary).

Ask yourself – what medicine is it, why are you taking it and what’s in it?

Think about what medicine you’re taking, why you’re taking it, and what’s in it.

The use of any medicine during pregnancy requires careful consideration of both risks and benefits by the health professional caring for you. Any decision about taking a medicine during pregnancy should always:

  • involve your health professional and you
  • take into account:
    - all available information on the medicine, and
    - your specific circumstances.

There are some medicines that should be used with caution or avoided during pregnancy. You should always talk to your doctor or health professional about using medicines when you are pregnant.

What about complementary medicines?

Remember that medicines don’t just come on prescription — they include over-the-counter and complementary medicines.

Complementary medicines (also known as ‘traditional’ or ‘alternative’ medicines) include vitamin, mineral, herbal, aromatherapy and homeopathic products. Many complementary medicines have not undergone the same level of research as prescription and over-the-counter medicines, so often less is known about their effectiveness, possible side effects and interactions both overall and during pregnancy.

Some medicines that you can buy from a supermarket, pharmacy, health food store or online may not be safe for use during pregnancy.

Vitamins specifically formulated for pregnancy

Some vitamin preparations are formulated specifically for use during pregnancy. This ensures correct intake of certain vitamins and minerals (such as folic acid) and avoids excess intake of other vitamins. It is advisable to talk to your healthcare professional about your specific nutritional needs during pregnancy.

Call the Medicines Line

If you are pregnant, or planning a pregnancy, and have questions about medicines, you can call the Medicines Line on 1300 633 424 or 1300 MEDICINE (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm AEST) for advice about medicines (prescription, over-the-counter and complementary).

What if I need to take medicines?

While some medicines have the potential to affect an unborn baby, not treating some conditions could actually be more harmful to both you and your baby.

If you have a chronic medical condition and need medicine to treat it, it is important to have your condition assessed while you are planning for, or during your pregnancy. Your doctor is the best person to assess your medical treatment. Sometimes changes are needed to ensure the health of both you and your growing baby. 

Call the Medicines Line

If you are pregnant, or planning a pregnancy, and have questions about medicines, you can call the Medicines Line on 1300 633 424 or 1300 MEDICINE (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm AEST) for advice about medicines (prescription, over-the-counter and complementary).

Where can I get more information?

Traditional sources of information such as Product information and Consumer Medicines information leaflets often don’t provide detailed information about use in pregnancy, so your health professionals are the best source of information to guide you about the use of medicines during pregnancy.

What questions do I need to ask?

The top questions to ask your health professional about using medicines during pregnancy:

  • What is the medicine for?
  • What Is known about using this medicine in pregnancy? 
  • Is it considered safe to take?
  • What are the possible side effects for me and for the baby, and what can I do about them?
  • How do I use or take the medicine correctly?
  • What should, or shouldn’t I do while taking this medicine?

Call the Medicines Line

If you are pregnant, or planning a pregnancy, and have questions about medicines, you can call the Medicines Line on 1300 633 424 or 1300 MEDICINE (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm AEST) for advice about medicines (prescription, over-the-counter and complementary).

Where can I go for help?

If you are pregnant and would like to find out more about a particular medicine:

  • Call Medicines Line on 1300 633 424 (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm AEST)
  • Talk to your health care team – your doctor, pharmacist or midwife
  • Read the packaging, labels and information for your medicine (also available on our website through the Medicine Finder or from your pharmacist or doctor
  • Contact your local women and children’s medical service and/or hospital
  • Mothersafe factsheets from Sydney's Royal Hospital for Women
3 min read

Date published: 22 August 2018
Reasonable care is taken to provide accurate information at the time of creation. This information is not intended as a substitute for medical advice and should not be exclusively relied on to manage or diagnose a medical condition. NPS MedicineWise disclaims all liability (including for negligence) for any loss, damage or injury resulting from reliance on or use of this information. Read our full disclaimer. This website uses cookies. Read our privacy policy.