Skip to content

    Health & Pregnancy

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Taking Medication While Pregnant

    Safe or Sorry?

    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

    Feb. 11, 2002 -- When I was four months pregnant, I developed severe stomach pains and was rushed to the hospital. Suspecting appendicitis, the emergency room doctors advised X-rays -- the only way to find out if their suspicions were correct. I panicked. After all, X-rays were on that ominous list of "don'ts" I had so fastidiously been avoiding throughout my pregnancy.

    The doctors agreed to monitor me carefully and to hold off for an hour or so. In the meantime, they grew less convinced that my discomfort was appendicitis and more sure I merely had a case of the flu and dehydration. But what I hadn't fully understood was that a burst appendix was far more dangerous to me and my baby than any X-ray.

    My misguided fears aren't uncommon. Experts say many women -- and even some doctors -- think some medications and exposures are more harmful to a pregnancy than they actually are. It's a good idea to avoid substances you don't need, they say, but you shouldn't feel compelled to be a martyr, either.

    "I think there are great misperceptions out there," says Karen Filkins, MD, director of reproductive genetics at the UCLA School of Medicine, who ran a pregnancy hotline in Pittsburgh for 12 years and fielded thousands of calls from pregnant women who were unduly worried about exposing their babies to everything from mouthwash to Ex-Lax.

    Citing a variety of conditions from asthma to the common cold, Filkins says medications can often ensure safer pregnancies than if illnesses are left untreated. "In fact, the worst thing you can do is go cold turkey and stay sick. Fever, for instance, has more potentially damaging effects early in pregnancy than taking something like Tylenol."

    Teratogens: The Tests of Time

    Women have traditionally been cautioned against taking medications during pregnancy, because there are no guarantees that any drug is safe. The only way to do that would be to put the drugs through controlled trials with pregnant women, and no one wants to assume the ethical or legal liabilities of exposing a pregnant woman and her fetus to potential harm.

    1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

    Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

    Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
    what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

    Today on WebMD

    hand circling date on calendar
    Track your most fertile days.
    woman looking at ultrasound
    Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
     
    Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
    The signs to watch out for.
    pregnant woman in hospital
    Are there ways to do it naturally?
     
    slideshow fetal development
    Slideshow
    pregnancy first trimester warning signs
    Article
     
    What Causes Bipolar
    Video
    Woman trying on dress in store
    Slideshow
     
    pregnant woman
    Article
    Woman looking at pregnancy test
    Quiz
     
    calendar and baby buggy
    Tool
    dark chocolate squares
    Slideshow