Drug usage during pregnancy and lactation raises several questions. Should all drugs be avoided during pregnancy? What drugs are safe to use? Are drugs that are not advisable during pregnancy also not advisable while breastfeeding? What about natural products? How do drugs affect the foetus? Here is a summary of the main recommendations regarding drug use during pregnancy and lactation.
How can drugs be dangerous?
During the first three months of pregnancy, the foetus is developing slowly. Exposure of the foetus to certain drugs during this stage can impair organ formation. During the following months, certain medicine could cause a growth delay or impair psychomotor development (motor and mental functions). Finally, during the last two months of pregnancy, certain drugs could induce or delay labor. Certain drugs can also prolong labor unnecessarily.
Fortunately, a limited number of drugs can caused those problems. Several products are known to be safe and effective during pregnancy. Caution is of course warranted. Many pregnant women experience various malaises during this period, which require drug therapy. With such malaises, it is best to resort to non-drug measures to try to relieve symptoms. Here are a few examples.
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Lifestyle during pregnancy
Most pregnant women will be exposed to various non pharmaceutical products during their pregnancy. Some of these products should be avoided while others should be used in moderation.
- Alcohol: Do not drink alcohol during pregnancy. No safe limit as been determined and alcohol is known to affect foetus growth.
- Caffeine: Drink caffeinated drinks in moderation. Do not drink more than 300 mg of caffeine per day (approximately 3 cups of coffee or 3 caffeinated soft drinks per day). Remember that tea and chocolate also contain caffeine. Energy drinks contain a lot of caffeine and other substances and are thus disadvised during pregnancy.
- Food poisoning: Some foods can pose a higher risk of intoxication and can be dangerous for you and your baby. Avoid following foods: raw milk or cheese made with raw milk, raw meat, poultry, eggs, fish, seafood and sprouts, unpasteurized fruit juice and milk and certain delicatessen.
- Herb teas: Herb teas must be consumed in moderation. Some should be avoided (e.g. chamomille).
- Natural products: As a general rule, it is best not to use them during pregnancy because we know little about their use and safety during pregnancy.
- Sugar Substitutes: Avoid saccharin and cyclamates. Avoid replacing essential foods by products containing sugar substitutes, since they are needed for a healthy pregnancy. Consume other sugar substitutes in moderation.
- Tobacco: Do not smoke while you are pregnant. Tobacco use increases your risk of giving birth to a low-weight infant.
- Vitamins: Pregnant women should use prenatal vitamin preparations that are specially formulated to meet their needs. Always follow package directions.
Drugs during pregnancy
When non-drug measures are not enough to alleviate your symptoms, certain over-the-counter (or even prescription) drugs can be used. Most health problems can be treated efficaciously and safely during pregnancy.
Drugs during breastfeeding
As during pregnancy, some drugs are not recommended while breastfeeding. Drugs used during breastfeeding can:
- Alter breast milk taste;
- Decrease breast milk production;
- Affect the infant.
Some products should be avoided at all times during breastfeeding, while others should simply be taken differently so as to interfere as little as possible with breastfeeding. Pharmacists are in the best position to advise women on product safety. Breastfeeding women should not hesitate to ask their pharmacist to help them safely alleviate health problems.
A cautious approach to drugs combined with a healthy lifestyle enables you to consider safer and more pleasant pregnancy and breastfeeding period. You and your child are at the heart of these choices!