Medications To Avoid During Pregnancy

Medications To Avoid During Pregnancy

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When you are pregnant, you may not want to take any medications that are not related to pregnancy. Whether it is a cold and fever or joint pain, you would rather try some non-drug remedies than take any medicines because you do not know what is harmful and what is not.

Therefore, it is good to know the medicines that could be harmful to you and the baby. This will ease your anxiety. In this post, MomJunction tells you about such medicines that you should avoid during pregnancy.

Medications To Avoid During Pregnancy

The following is the list of groups and individual drugs you should avoid as they could have an impact on fetal development. Most of the studies are inconclusive and need further research to confirm the adverse effects of the drugs on the fetus. However, you should never take these drugs without your doctor’s prescription.

  1. Acne medications: Vitamin A derivatives such as isotretinoin might lead to birth defects, cardiac and brain defects, and also physical abnormalities. Oral tetracyclines can affect bones and teeth of the fetus (1).
  1. Antifungal medications: Fluconazole medications are usually prescribed for oral thrush and vaginal fungal infections. It is likely to increase the risk of spontaneous abortion since the ingredients could seep into the umbilical cord, affecting fetal development (2).
  1. Antihistamines: These are taken for nasal congestion, hives, rash, and other allergic symptoms. The first generation of antihistamines (such as hydroxyzine, diphenhydramine, chlorpheniramine, cyproheptadine, and promethazine) could lead to blurred vision, dry mouth, urinary retention and constipation. None of the antihistamines have been declared safe during pregnancy but their effect on pregnancy is also not known as there are no studies involving humans (3).
  1. Benzodiazepines: Klonopin, Xanax, Ativan, And Valium, belonging to the class of benzodiazepines, help treat anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, and seizures. Exposure during the first trimester might raise the risk of cleft lip and palate in the baby. However, the risk is small (4).
  1. Chloramphenicol: The antibiotic may not have any adverse effects on the fetus when taken during the pregnancy. However, this should not be used during delivery as it might cause a gray baby syndrome in the newborn (5).
  1. Codeine: This is an opioid medication used for pain and cough. During the first trimester, it is likely to cause birth defects (6). And stopping the medication abruptly could lead to withdrawal symptoms in the newborns (7).
  1. Coumadin (warfarin): The blood-thinning medication is prescribed to treat and prevent clots in the heart, veins, arteries, and lungs. Intake during the first trimester could lead to a rare condition called fetal warfarin syndrome (8).
  1. Fluoroquinolones: These are another class of antibiotics. The use of fluoroquinolone during early pregnancy was found to have been associated with an increased risk of miscarriage (9). They are also not prescribed as first-line agents for the treatment of uncomplicated urinary tract infections and upper respiratory tract infections (10).
  1. NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, diclefenac, naproxen, and piroxicam, were found to result in low birth weight in the baby but the low weight could be attributable to the underlying inflammatory condition than the drug itself. There is a borderline risk with these drugs but it is good to avoid them during pregnancy (11).
  1. Primaquine: The antimalarial drug treats malaria caused by Plasmodium virax parasite. Although there are no human studies, there is likely to be a risk of fetal anemia if you have G6PD deficiency (12).
  1. Sulfonamides: Also referred to as sulfa drugs, they are another group of antibiotics that treat bacterial infections. The results of studies are inconclusive on the adverse effects of sulfonamides on babies, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends doctors to prescribe the antibiotics with restraint (13).
  1. Topiramate: The anti-epileptic drug is used to treat migraine headaches and other psychiatric illnesses. According to the US FDA, usage during the first trimester could increase the risk of cleft lip or cleft palate in newborns (14).
  1. Trimethoprim (Primsol): This is an antibiotic used to treat bladder infections. When taken before conception, trimethoprim was found to increase the risk of congenital malformations (15) and when taken in the first trimester, it might increase the risk of miscarriage (16).

While some of these medicines are a clear no during pregnancy, some may be given by the doctor if they think the benefits outweigh the risks.

Even if you want to take some over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, consider a few things before popping them in.

Things To Consider Before You Consume OTC Medications

Here are some important points you need to consider before taking any drugs.

  1. Try natural measures: Most of the physical illnesses you experience during pregnancy may be reduced with natural remedies. For examples, you can meditate to get relief from stress or have a massage done for body aches. You may consume a hot soup for cold or take enough rest for a fever.
  1. Check with your doctor: Before you plan to take any medication, seek your doctor’s help. They may suggest the lowest possible dose depending on your condition.
  1. Do not take combination drugs: Do not mix two different medications, and take them together. You can only do that on your doctor’s prescription.
  1. Read the label: While most of the components of the OTC medicines are not harmful, it is good to know about them by reading the label.

You may get to read a lot of conflicting information on the safety of medications. But this doesn’t mean you need to get utterly afraid of using any medicines. If your doctor has prescribed medication and you are not sure about its safety, talk to them to reaffirm about the drug’s safety.

What medications have you been avoiding or avoided during pregnancy? Let us know in the comment section below.


1. Skin conditions during pregnancy; The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2018)
2. Mølgaard-Nielsen D et al.; Association between use of oral fluconazole during pregnancy and risk of spontaneous abortion and stillbirth; JAMA (2016)
3. Sumit Kar et al.; A review of antihistamines used during pregnancy; J Pharmacol Pharmacother (2012)
4. New data on anxiety medications and pregnancy SSRIs and benzodiazepines: reproductive safety of combined treatment; MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health (2001)
5. Marvin S. Amstey; Chloramphenicol therapy in pregnancy; Clinical Infectious Diseases
6. Use of Pain Medicine During Early Pregnancy May Be Related To Birth Defects; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017)
7. Vrinda Nair et al.; Neonatal withdrawal syndrome due to maternal codeine use; Paediatr Child Health (2012)
8. Hou JW; Fetal warfarin syndrome; Chang Gung Med J (2004)
9. Flory T. Muanda et al.; Use of antibiotics during pregnancy and risk of spontaneous abortion; CMAJ (2017)
10. Ronen Loebstein; Pregnancy outcome following gestational exposure to fluoroquinolones: A multicenter prospective controlled study; American Society for Microbiology
11. K Nezvalová-Henriksen et al.; Effects of ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen, and piroxicam on the course of pregnancy and pregnancy outcome: a prospective cohort study; BJOG (2014)
12. Primaquine; NIH (2006)
13. Sulfonamides, nitrofurantoin, and risk of birth defects; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2019)
14. Use of topiramate in pregnancy and risk of oral clefts; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018)
15. Jon Trærup Andersen et al.; Trimethoprim Use prior to Pregnancy and the Risk of Congenital Malformation: A Register-Based Nationwide Cohort Study; Obstetrics and Gynecology International (2013)
16. T. Andersen, et al.; Trimethoprim Use in Early Pregnancy and the Risk of Miscarriage: A Register Based Nationwide Cohort Study; Epidemiology and infection


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Rebecca Malachi

She is a Biotechnologist with a proficiency in areas of genetics, immunology, microbiology, bio-engineering, chemical engineering, medicine, pharmaceuticals to name a few. Her expertise in these fields has greatly assisted her in writing medical and life science articles. With 8+ years of work experience in writing for health and wellness, she is now a full-time contributor for She is passionate about giving research-based information to readers in need. Apart from writing, she is a foodie, loves travel, fond of gospel music and enjoys observing nature in silence. Know more about her at:
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