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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 take.

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 to take during pregnancy, a small number of medicines can harm your baby. The effect of the medicine on your baby can depend on the stage of your pregnancy.

Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are planning to take when pregnant.

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

Some medicines must not be taken when you are pregnant. Others should be used carefully.

Don’t stop taking your prescription medicines until you have spoken with your doctor.

With some conditions, you will need to keep taking medicine. Stopping treatment can cause problems that can affect you and your baby. Such conditions include:

If your doctor thinks a medicine will cause more harm than the condition itself, then they may:

  • change your medicine
  • change the dose
  • stop your medicine altogether

You might find that your doctor doesn’t change your medicine. If you take regular medicines, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor when you are planning a pregnancy.

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

Over-the-counter medicines are medicines you can buy in a pharmacy, supermarket, or shop without a prescription.

During your pregnancy, you may have colds, sore throats, indigestion and headaches. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any:

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and aspirin should be avoided during pregnancy.

Some women may be prescribed low dose aspirin for pre-eclampsia. You should always speak to your healthcare team before taking aspirin when pregnant.

You can use paracetamol to help mild to moderate pain during pregnancy.

Will complementary medicines affect my pregnancy?

Complementary medicines are also called ‘traditional’ or ‘alternative’ medicines. They include:

  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • herbal medicines
  • aromatherapy
  • homeopathy products

While these medicines are often described as natural, they are not necessarily safe. This is especially true during pregnancy. We often don’t know much about their safety.

If you want to use complementary medicines during your pregnancy talk to your doctor or local pharmacist. They can give you advice about which medicines are safe to use.

All pregnant women in Australia are advised to take folic acid, iodine, and vitamin D supplements. Visit the vitamins and supplements during pregnancy page to find out more about what to take and what to avoid.

Where to get more information

Sometimes it's not clear if a medicine is safe to use when you are pregnant. Before taking any medicine get advice from your pharmacist or doctor.

You can also look at the packaging or read the Consumer Medicine Information leaflet (CMI).

You can search for medicines by brand name or active ingredient in healthdirect's medicine section. You can also find their CMIs here.

If you have questions about taking medicines while you a pregnant you can call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 to speak to a registered nurse. The line is open 24 hours, 7 days a week (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria) .

You can also call 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) from 9am to 5pm AET, Monday to Friday.

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

Last reviewed: August 2022

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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?

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