This article describes medications that are commonly used and safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding. This list is not exhaustive and you are advised to consult your doctor before taking medication.

For Common Cold

Related: Common Cold

For Cough

Dry cough

Productive cough

Mucolytic (to dissolve thick mucus)

Sore throat

Related: Decoding Coughs

For Heartburn and Gastric Pain

Related: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

For Pregnancy Supplementation

Related: Nutrition During Pregnancy - Eating Right for Two

For Threatened Miscarriage (vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy)

Anti-Emetics for Nausea and Vomiting

Related: Morning Sickness: Should you be worried?

For Constipation

Related: Chronic Constipation

Piles during Pregnancy

For Diarrhoea

Related: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

For Lactation Suppression (to stop breast milk flow after delivery)


Safe Oral Antibiotics during Pregnancy

Oral Antibiotics Not Recommended in Pregnancy

For Vaginal Candidiasis (yeast infection) in Pregnancy

Related: Vulvo Vaginal Candidiasis

For Rash/Itch

Related: Skin Diseases in Pregnancy

Medications for Allergic Rhinitis or Stuffy Nose

Related: Allergic Rhinitis

Medications for Asthma

Related: Asthma

FDA Classification on Safety of Medicines Used in Pregnancy

Since 1975, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assigned pregnancy risk categories to all medicines used in the United States (Table 27.1).

Unfortunately, many medicines have not been adequately researched during pregnancy and due to ethical concerns, will probably not be studied in the future. Thus, please consult your doctor before consuming any medicines in pregnancy.

Table 27.1 FDA classification on safety of medicines used in pregnancy:

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is taking evening primrose oil (EPO) safe during pregnancy?

EPO is a plant extract and commonly used as a dietary supplement. EPO contains linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid. It also contains gammalinolenic acid, which is important for the production of prostaglandins by the body. Although there are some reports that suggest that EPO might affect the opening of the cervix (neck of womb), there is insufficient research to conclude if EPO is safe or harmful in pregnancy or even breastfeeding.

2. Is drinking aloe vera tea safe during pregnancy?

Most herbalists would recommend that aloe should not be used in pregnancy as it may stimulate womb (uterine) contractions.

Remember not to use any herbs during pregnancy without the approval of your doctor.

3. Is taking diazepam (sleeping pill) recommended during pregnancy?

The information regarding the safety of diazepam is controversial. However, several studies have linked the use of diazepam during pregnancy to a small increase in the risk of major malformations (heart and stomach) and cleft palate. Heavy use of diazepam throughout pregnancy has been associated with multiple problems, including dysmorphic features, growth retardation, craniofacial defects, and neonatal withdrawal symptoms. Thus, we do not recommend its use in pregnancy.

4. Is oral or topical tretinoin (Retin-A) safe in pregnancy?

Tretinoin (derived from Vitamin A) is given orally or topically to treat acne.

Oral tretinoin is strictly banned in pregnancy as it causes multiple malformations in the developing baby. These include cleft palate, heart and eye anomalies. It can also cause spontaneous miscarriage.

Many children born to mothers who have been treated with tretinoin during pregnancy have reduced IQ and mental impairment.

We also advise to avoid topical Retin-A in pregnancy due to possible skin absorption of the chemical. Instead, topical erythromycin (an antibiotic) and topical benzoyl peroxide may be safely used to treat acne.

5. Are over-the-counter (OTC) slimming pills safe in pregnancy?

Many OTC slimming pills contain a combination of herbal products such as Garcinia and Chitosan. The safety profile of slimming pills are not established in pregnancy and thus, these slimming pills should be avoided once you are pregnant. Besides, we do not recommend losing weight during pregnancy as the growth of your developing baby may be affected.

6. Is consuming glucosamine safe in pregnancy?

Glucosamine is an endogenous amino monosaccharide used for the treatment of joint pain (osteoarthritis). There is insufficient evidence addressing its safety profile in pregnancy. No adverse outcomes or congenital malformations were reported in pregnant women who had taken glucosamine during pregnancy.

7. Can I use mosquito repellants containing DEET when I am pregnant?

DEET (N,N-ethyl-m-toluamide) is very effective in preventing mosquito bites. This will help protect against mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Less than 10% of DEET gets absorbed through the skin. Moreover, animal studies do not show that DEET harms the fetus. The lowest concentration of DEET may be applied onto clothing during pregnancy when protection against insect bites is needed.

8. Are antioxidants recommended during pregnancy?

There are some studies that recommend antioxidants like vitamin C and E in reducing the risk of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure) during pregnancy. In one study, women with pre-eclampsia had significantly lower levels of Vitamin C. In severe pre-eclampsia, vitamin E is also significantly lower; thus, increasing antioxidants during pregnancy may help. Ask your doctor before using these products.

9. Is metronidazole (flagyl) antibiotic considered safe during pregnancy?

FDA has classified Flagyl as a category B drug. Its effect on an unborn child has not been studied extensively. Flagyl should only be used during pregnancy if clearly needed.

10. What pain-killers are safe during pregnancy?

Taking pain-killers like paracetamol is safe during pregnancy as it has no harmful effects on the fetus. Avoid ibuprofen or mefenamic acid which are NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). This class of drugs is not safe during pregnancy, especially during the last three months. They may affect the baby’s circulation, kidney function, or delay the onset of labour. However, there is no evidence that these drugs cause congenital abnormalities.


Source: Dr TAN Thiam Chye, Dr TAN Kim Teng, Dr TAN Heng Hao, Dr TEE Chee Seng John,The New Art and Science of Pregnancy and Childbirth, World Scientific 2008.

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