Cold Medicines That Are Safe for Pregnancy


Pregnancy causes enough discomfort, so a cold on top of the frequent bathroom visits and backaches can make you really feel miserable. As a pregnant woman, you have two people to worry about when it comes to choosing over-the-counter (OTC) medications. While you want relief from your congestion and coughing, you also don’t want to put your baby’s health in jeopardy. Consult with your health care provider for her advice.


Any medications you take enter your baby’s body, but your baby does not have fully developed systems to eliminate the drugs effectively. Some medications have a risk of causing birth defects or other adverse side effects on your baby. The first trimester is often a risky time to take OTC medications since the baby’s major organs are developing. Cold medications often contain more than one active ingredient so you need to read the labels and know what is acceptable. Consult with your physician if you want to use a cold medication.

Recommended Cold Medicines

The cold medication labels help you determine if the drugs are safe during pregnancy. Acetaminophen is a generally safe pain reliever during pregnancy and can also reduce fevers. Antihistamines that are considered safe include chlorpheniramine, loratadine, doxylamine and tripelennamine. Medicated chest rubs are acceptable for use during pregnancy. The University of Michigan Health System recommends Sudafed, Robitussin and Robitussin DM during pregnancy.

Drugs to Avoid

Certain drugs are better avoided during pregnancy to reduce the risk of negative side effects on the baby. Pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine are two decongestants that could cause birth defects, particularly during the first 13 weeks of the pregnancy. Cold medications containing alcohol should also be avoided.

Treating Symptoms

Cold medications commonly treat multiple symptoms instead of just one. Choosing a general cold remedy means extra drugs are used. When possible, stick with a cold remedy that treats the specific symptom or symptoms that you are experiencing. For example, if you are congested, avoid a cold medication that also treats coughing and runny nose.

Safe Alternatives

OTC cold medications only relieve the symptoms. The medication won’t cure the cold or shorten it. If you aren’t comfortable taking medications, natural options might also offer relief without the risks. Humidifiers prevent dried nasal passages and can help ease coughing and congestion. Steam helps break up congestion. Saline nasal sprays help clear out nasal congestion, providing an alternative to medicated nasal sprays. Drinking lots of clear liquids also helps thin mucus in the body.



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