As if the tender breasts and nightly heartburn weren’t enough! The astounding number of cold and flu medications standing on pharmacy shelves can be intimidating to anyone; let alone when you’re pregnant and worried about taking something that’s not safe for the baby.
While you should always check with your OB or healthcare provider before taking any medication during pregnancy, here’s a guide on what to consider taking—and avoiding—when you’re hit with the coughs and sniffles.
First off—pregnant or not—always try to take a single medication that targets your predominant symptom, such as a stuffy nose or sinus pain. Otherwise you may take more medication than you need and risk accidentally overdoing it, say, on an ingredient like acetaminophen.
Pain Relievers: What’s Safe During Pregnancy?
Sometimes colds are accompanied by painful aches and fevers. If so, reach for acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). Avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, which have been linked to miscarriage and birth defects.
Expectorants: What’s Safe During Pregnancy?
These medications help loosen and get rid of the phlegm that comes with a cold, says pharmacist Anne Marie Picone Ford. “Look for a medication with guaifenesin in it,” she notes.
Cough Suppressants: What’s Safe During Pregnancy?
A suppressant tries to stop the coughing from happening. “Coughs can affect women’s ability to sleep and function,” notes Gideon Koren, MD, senior scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. And while dextromethorphan (DM), the active ingredient in many cough syrups is safe in pregnancy, sometimes cough suppressants contain other medications, so check with your doctor about which ones she recommends.
Decongestants: What’s Safe During Pregnancy?
These medications, which come in a variety of forms (i.e., oral medications, nasal sprays or drops, etc.) help relieve stuffy noses and heads. But use these cautiously and only when absolutely necessary, suggests Dr. Koren. “During a severe cold, [you could consider] taking them before you go to sleep to free up your airway during sleep,” he says. Nasal sprays are absorbed less into your circulation than other formulations, so these might have a lower risk to babies, says Dr. Koren.
Looking for natural ways to ease those miserable symptoms? How about…
Humidifiers pump up the room’s moisture level, making it easier for you to breathe, so pick one up to use especially at night. Tip: Choose a cool mist humidifier to avoid burns—especially since you’ll likely use it one day with your infant to help ease his cold symptoms.) You can also prop your pillows up to help ease your cough since this stops the postnasal drip that often triggers night coughing.
Sipping a mug of tea can help ease congestion and pain. “But check first what’s in your tea, because more teas are coming as mixtures,” suggests Dr. Koren. Make sure there are no unhealthy or contraindicated ingredients.