When you become pregnant, suddenly your body isn’t your own. You’re sharing it with another precious, very vulnerable life. That’s when you start analyzing everything you consume.
As moms-to-be we worry about gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, but what we keep in our medicine cabinets could be our biggest concern. You don’t have to cut out all medications during pregnancy, but you do have to be a lot more careful.
Talk to Your Doctor
One of the first conversations you should have with your OB/GYN is what medications are unsafe to take while you’re pregnant. Let them know every type of medication you’re taking, including dietary supplements and herbs. Over-the-counter medications should also be discussed.
Have a frank conversation about the health benefits and risks of each medication. It’s best practice to rule out any medications that aren’t absolutely necessary if there could be potential risk for the baby. Another related concern is how the effectiveness of current medications could be impacted by pregnancy.
You can also use a pill identifier to learn more about a particular medication. These types of tools also come in handy if you have loose medications and aren’t sure what they are.
Know the Pregnancy Prescription Classifications
Every prescription is given a classification, which helps make their safety more clear. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also created pregnancy risk categories. The classifications are based on how likely a medication is to harm a fetus during pregnancy or a baby during breastfeeding.
In 2015 the FDA updated the system to create pregnancy risk letter categories. Medications are assigned a letter rating, which tells pregnant women and health providers how safe a medication is:
Category A – This is the safest drug category. Controlled studies have shown no evidence that taking these medications will harm your baby.
Category B – Drugs in this category have been tested on animals and show no adverse effects for fetuses, but there are no human studies on pregnant women.
Category C – This mid-level category is for medications that have been shown to affect fetuses in animal studies, but there are no adequate human studies. These medications are only recommended when the health benefits outweigh the potential risks.
Category D – With medications in category D studies have shown there is a correlation between the medications and human fetal risk. In rare cases the health benefits may outweigh the risks of taking a category D medication.
Category X – The ominous letter was chosen for a reason. Medications labeled with an X absolutely should not be taken since they are known to significantly increase the likelihood of fetal abnormalities and other fetal health risks.
You can find the labels above on prescription medication bottles. While you’re checking the category letter also make note of the expiration date.
Remember, Prescriptions Go Beyond Pills
Something that many people forget is that prescriptions include more than just pills. Retinol is the perfect example. Dermatologists often prescribe prescription-grade retinol for acne and other skin conditions. It’s generally safe to use, but because related products can cause birth defects, retinol is considered a C drug. Isotretinoin (former known as Accutane) is an X drug!
Discuss any and all prescriptions with your OB/GYN even if it doesn’t go in your mouth. Topical creams that are absorbed by the skin can also pass through the placenta to your baby.
Take as Low a Dose as Possible
Even if a medication falls into category A or B in the FDA’s pregnancy scale, there’s no reason to risk it if you don’t have to. It’s always safest to err on the side of caution and take as low a dose as possible for most medications. This includes over-the-counter drugs.
You may be able to process the medication at a normal dose just fine, but what about that tiny little baby whose system is already working overtime? Better safe than sorry.
Protecting your baby means protecting your own health. Right now you are two people sharing the same body. Approach every prescription with precaution.