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Safer medication use in pregnancy

Many women get very anxious if use of any medication becomes necessary in pregnancy. And such concerns are not without good reasons. There are genuine concerns about possible effects of various medications to the growing baby.

But what is important is to be completely clear about the necessity to take any proposed medications, and any possible pregnancy associated risks.

Use of medication in pregnancy is usually either for the direct benefit of the mother, or her growing baby. Medications like folic acid and iron tablets have known benefits to the growing fetus, and their use is usually recommended and safe. But antibiotics, painkillers and a multitude of other medications usually raise concerns in a lot of couples.

A balance of benefit and risk must always be considered when any medication is proposed during pregnancy. If the pregnant mother suffers infections like malaria or pneumonia, specific treatment must be given. If left untreated, severe maternal complications can arise, with an obvious direct effect on the pregnancy. What is important in such situations is to select drugs that are already known to be safe in pregnancy, or at best expected not to do harm to the growing baby.

Uncommon situations can occur where a pregnant woman requires certain medications already known to be unsafe, or whose safety profile is unclear. The concern is usually harmful effects to the growing baby. An extreme example is when certain types of cancer are diagnosed during pregnancy. Such scenarios are pretty difficult, and decisions are not always easy. The mother’s life would be at risk if left untreated, and equally the growing baby might suffer unwanted harm. Choices range from prematurely ending the pregnancy, or buying some weeks to allow further maturity of the baby prior to delivery. Either way, it’s prudent to avoid undue delays before initiating maternal treatment.

What about over the counter non-prescription drugs? These are best avoided in pregnancy if at all possible. Taking the odd painkiller or a cold remedy is unlikely to do any harm, especially if beyond the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Anything short of that, or use of any medications for a prolonged period of time, is best cross-checked with your obstetrician. Always remember to alert your pharmacist that you are pregnant, and to read the label that usually warns about potential side effects of medications.

It is unlikely you’ll go through a full pregnancy without ever requiring some medication or other. Take all reasonable precautions to avoid unnecessary exposure to unwarranted medications. In unavoidable situations, make sure you get a formal prescription from your obstetrician. Don’t make any assumptions, always clarify that what you have been given has some known safety profile in pregnancy. Above all, don’t self-prescribe if at all possible.

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Many women get very anxious if use of any medication becomes necessary in pregnancy. And such concerns are not without good reasons.

There are genuine concerns about possible effects of various medications to the growing baby.

But what is important is to be completely clear about the necessity to take any proposed medications, and any possible pregnancy associated risks.

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