Pregnancy changes everything about your life and how you manage your day-to-day routine, including avoiding over-the-counter or prescription drugs you may have been using without a second thought. Since pregnancies often stretch through three seasons of different allergies, a common question is whether decongestants of certain active ingredients are safe to use for your growing baby’s health.
Every pregnancy is different and requires different precautions and health awareness. Always ask your OBGYN whether a new medication is safe to use in your specific pregnancy case before taking it.
Depending on your symptoms, you may be used to taking one of three major types of allergy medication to prevent or stop them from occurring. The active ingredients used include:
- Oxymetazoline (Claritin)
- Phenylephrine (Sudafed PE)
- Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
- Analgesics such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen
- Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine
Analgesics are often included in cold medicine specifically and not antihistamines or decongestants but may be helpful in relieving some symptoms associated with allergies or colds. Acetaminophen is especially well-known as safe to use during pregnancy, although other NSAIDs like ibuprofen may not be as safe, and you should review any active ingredient in a cold or allergy medicine with your doctor prior to use.
Depending on the specific active ingredient and dosage, most decongestants you can find over-the-counter are generally okay to use during pregnancy. However, there are some risk factors you should be aware of.
When it comes to the active ingredient in Sudafed or Sudafed PE, it has vasoconstrictive and sympathomimetic properties which can increase heart rate and blood pressure. In some studies, this has been associated with some birth defects when used in the first trimester; however, this association has not been consistently shown therefore it is not absolutely contraindicated. When ingested by healthy pregnant patients in the third trimester a single dose did not alter blood pressure or blood flow to the uterus or fetal circulation, therefore, in healthy patients, Sudafed may be used sparingly for periodic symptomatic relief. However, we suggest discussing with your OBGYN prior to use.
Claritin’s active ingredient has also not been shown to have any effect on the incidence of birth defects when used during the first trimester, although formulations of inhaled medication may cause side effects when used consistently.
Other active ingredients in over-the-counter cold medicines, allergy remedies, and decongestants may not have a rigorous safety background and should be avoided simply to avoid increasing your risk of birth complications. Your OBGYN or MFM can help you decide which allergy or decongestant will be both safe and effective during an appointment either virtually or in our office.
In many cases, mothers can find the allergy, decongestant, or cold medicine they need while pregnant to safely and effectively reduce their symptoms and live as healthy a life as they want. However, medication should always be discussed with your doctor prior to using over-the-counter treatments that can cross the placenta and have unintended consequences for your growing baby.
Learn your options for decongestants by calling or contacting our OBGYNs online today.
Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!