Drugs, herbs and dietary supplements

Street drugs, over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, dietary supplements, herbal preparations, and some medications can hurt your baby. Some can cause birth defects. Others can cause your baby to be born too small or very sick.

A woman who is pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant should tell her provider about any drugs she takes to make sure they are safe for pregnancy.

Street drugs
Illegal drugs, including cocaine, marijuana and Ecstasy, may cause birth defects. Pregnant women should not take street drugs and should tell their providers if they need help to quit. For information about drug treatment in your area, go to the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator.

Before you're pregnant
A woman taking any of the following drugs should talk to her provider before getting pregnant. She may need to switch to a safer drug for pregnancy:

  • ACE inhibitors (enalapril or captopril)
  • Androgens and testosterone by-products
  • Anticancer drugs
  • Antifolic acid drugs, like methotrexate or aminopterin
  • Carbamazepine
  • Levothyroxine
  • Lithium
  • Phenytoin
  • Streptomycin and kanamycin
  • Tetracycline
  • Trimethadione and paramethadione
  • Valproic acid
  • Warfarin and other coumarin by-products

Prescription drugs during pregnancy
If you are pregnant and taking any of the following drugs, stop taking the medicine immediately and call your health care provider:

  • Isotretinoins such as Amnesteem, Claravis, Accutane and Sotret and other retinoids
  • Soriatane (acitretin)
  • Thalomid (thalidomide)
  • Revlimid (lenalidomide)

If you are pregnant and taking any other prescription drugs, talk to your provider before stopping the medication. Sometimes stopping a drug suddenly can have a health risk.

Even some nonprescription medications may carry a health risk, although it is generally small. For example, if a woman takes aspirin shortly before the day the baby is born, it can increase the risk of heavy bleeding in the mother and baby.

Herbal products and dietary supplements
The March of Dimes does not support the use of herbal or dietary supplements by women who can become pregnant, by pregnant women, or by children, without approval by a health care provider. While some supplements and herbal ingredients have undergone extensive testing, the safety and effectiveness of many have not been shown.

More things you can do

  • Don't take someone else's prescription drugs.
  • Take only medications prescribed for you or recommended by a health care provider who knows you are pregnant.
  • Check with your provider before taking any over-the-counter drugs (including aspirin), pills, herbal products or dietary supplements.

See also: Breastfeeding and medications, prescription drugs

July 2009

Most common questions

Can I keep taking all my prescriptions during pregnancy?

It depends on the drug. Tell your prenatal care provider about any prescription drugs you take. Some drugs may be harmful to a growing baby. You may need to stop taking a drug or switch to a drug that's safer for your baby. Don't take anyone else's prescription drugs. And don't take any prescription drug unless your prenatal care provider knows about it.

I drank before I knew I was pregnant. Is my baby hurt?

It's unlikely that an occasional drink before you realized you were pregnant will harm your baby. But the baby's brain and other organs begin developing around the third week of pregnancy, so they could be affected by alcohol in these early weeks. The patterns of drinking that place a baby at greatest risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are binge drinking and drinking seven or more drinks per week. However, FASDs can and do occur in babies of women who drink less. Because no amount of alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy, a woman should stop drinking immediately if she even suspects she could be pregnant. And she should not drink alcohol if she is trying to become pregnant.

Is it OK to drink wine in my third trimester?

No amount of alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy. To ensure your baby's health and safety, don't drink alcohol while you're pregnant. Alcohol includes beer, wine, wine coolers and liquor. If you need help to stop drinking alcohol, tell your health care provider.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).