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Pregnant woman with a cold thinking about taking medicine

Pregnant woman with a cold thinking about taking medicine
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Medicines during pregnancy

4-minute read

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

This is because your baby’s growth and development can be affected by what you put into your body. Each medicine is different. To make the best decision for you and your baby, learn what you need to be aware of.

What should I be aware of when taking medicines during pregnancy?

While many medicines are safe, a small number of medicines can harm your baby. The effect of the medicine on your baby can also depend on the stage of your pregnancy.

Tell your doctor, specialist or pharmacist as soon as possible (preferably when planning your pregnancy), about any medicines you take or are planning to take.

Should I stop taking my prescription medicines if I'm pregnant?

It’s not safe to stop taking any prescription medicines until you have spoken to your doctor or specialist. This is because stopping treatment of certain conditions might cause problems that can affect you and your baby. Such conditions include:

You might find that your doctor doesn’t change your medicine. If your doctor thinks a medicine will cause more harm than the condition itself, then they may change the medicine or the dose, or stop treatment altogether.

Are non-prescription or over-the-counter medicines safe to take when pregnant?

During your pregnancy, you will probably have some colds, sore throats and headaches. In these situations, always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any cold and flu medicines, pain relievers or any other non-prescription medicines.

In particular, do not take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain killers (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and aspirin, which can cause complications to your pregnancy.

Paracetamol, which is not an NSAID, is usually recommended as a safer choice than ibuprofen but check the reason for pain with your midwife, doctor or pharmacist.

Will herbal supplements and vitamins affect my pregnancy?

Some herbal supplements and vitamins can affect your pregnancy and your baby. Before taking anything — whether a prescription medicine or not - it’s best to check with your doctor or pharmacist.

Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s safe.

Where to get more information

Sometimes it's unclear if a medicine or supplement is safe to use when you are pregnant. Before taking any medicine during pregnancy, get advice from your pharmacist or doctor.

Also look at the packaging or read the Consumer Medicine Information leaflet (CMI). Ask your pharmacist if one is available. You can also search for medicines and their CMIs by brand name or active ingredient in healthdirect's medicine section.

There are organisations you can contact in your state or territory such as:

  • National: healthdirect on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria) to speak to a registered nurse
  • NSW: MotherSafe, based at the Royal Hospital for Women Randwick, on 02 9382 6539 (Monday–Friday 9am-5pm excluding public holidays)
  • ACT: ACT Alcohol and other drug service at the Canberra Hospital on (02) 5124 9977
  • Victoria: Royal Women's Hospital Medicines Information Service on (03) 8345 3190 or Monash Medicines Information Centre (03) 9594 2361 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
  • South Australia: Medicines Information Service on (08) 8161 7555 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
  • Western Australia: Obstetric Medicines Information Service, King Edward Memorial Hospital on (08) 6458 2723 (Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5:00pm)
  • NT: Northern Territory Drug Information Centre, Royal Darwin Hospital on (08) 8922 8424.

You can also call the NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) from anywhere in Australia (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm AEST excluding NSW public holidays).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2020

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Need more information?

Prescribing medicines in pregnancy database | Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)

Read more on TGA – Therapeutic Goods Administration website

Taking medicines in pregnancy - NPS MedicineWise

If you are thinking of taking a medicine while you’re pregnant, take your doctor's advice and consider the risks and benefits.

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.