Main Content
Your Health Care

Fighting Illness When You’re Pregnant

October 09, 2018

What do you do when you’re pregnant and you get a run-of-the-mill cold or the nasty flu? And how do you deal with the aches, pains and discomforts that come with pregnancy? When you’re pregnant and sick, knowing when to see the doctor and what you can handle yourself isn’t always easy. Even medications you regularly used before your pregnancy can cause problems when you’ve got a baby on board.

Keep Your Doctor Posted

Many of us are so used to taking over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that we forget these products are serious drugs. Whether it’s ibuprofen for a headache or a decongestant to soothe allergy symptoms, we’ve become used to quick relief, without worrying about side effects. But some common medications — and even some herbal supplements — can be harmful to a developing or breastfeeding baby. This is why you should bring a list of all your medications and supplements, along with dosage amounts, to your first pregnancy appointment. Many doctors will give their mothers-to-be a list of medication that is safe for mom and baby.

Common Medications to Avoid During Pregnancy

While you should always verify online advice like this with your doctor, there is common agreement that pregnant women should try to avoid using OTC medications during their first trimester. This is when the risk of affecting your baby’s health is highest. The online resource MotherToBaby offers fact sheets on prescription and non-prescription medicines that you might find helpful. Here are several broad medication categories pregnant women are advised to avoid:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). Use acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead.
  • Combination drugs that are used to treat multiple symptoms at once. This might be too much medication at one time for your growing baby. Examples include “PM” formulations that might combine acetaminophen with an antihistamine to help you sleep.
  • Some decongestants, including those with pseudoephedrine (Sudafed).
When to Call the Doctor

“When should I go to the doctor?” might be another question you’ll ask yourself during your pregnancy. It can be difficult – especially if this is your first pregnancy – to know when a symptom is normal and when it needs medical attention. And, because your doctor might have advised against standard OTC options, even how to treat common ailments might become confusing. In general, you should always call your doctor first with any questions. Any of the following symptoms, however, could be a warning sign of a serious problem:

  • Vaginal bleeding. Spotting can be normal early on, and there are other normal reasons for some bleeding during pregnancy. However, other causes could be serious, so calling the doctor is your safest bet.
  • Excessive nausea and vomiting. Morning sickness is a well-known pregnancy symptom, but it can turn extreme, leading to dehydration. If you can’t keep anything down, call your doctor as there is a medication that can help.
  • Fever. If your temperature is above 99 degrees for more than a day or two or reaches to 102 degrees or higher, call your doctor because you could have an infection.
  • Leg or calf pain. Leg cramps can be common, but persistent, severe calf pain needs attention because a blood clot could be the cause.
  • Abdominal pain. Sudden pain in the abdomen, especially with vaginal bleeding, can be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, which requires immediate medical attention.
  • Reduced baby movements. If your baby’s activity suddenly declines, it could be a sign of distress. Monitoring might be needed to ensure all is well.

In short, your OB-GYN should always be your primary resource for medical information while you’re pregnant. Don’t be afraid to call your doctor’s office with any health concerns – that’s the best way to learn which health conditions you can treat on your own and when professional help is needed.