What if I take medications before knowing I’m pregnant?


Once you realize you are pregnant, alert your doctor right away of any medications you may be taking, or have taken, over the course of your pregnancy. Although some over-the-counter medications are safe, others may not be.

Consult with your doctor first about medicines you would like to take so he or she can decide what the best course of action is for you and your baby. Follow all package directions for over-the-counter medications. There are many common medications that are considered safe during pregnancy. 

Safe medications for pregnancy

  • Pain or fever: Acetaminophen, such as Tylenol
  • Colds, the flu, allergies, or asthma: saline sprays for decongestion, Robitussin or Guafenesin, antihistamines, all asthma inhalers such as albuterol or steroid inhalers
  • Flu shot: considered safe anytime during pregnancy
  • Antibiotics: Penicillin, Ampicillin, Erythromycin, Azithromycin, Macrobid, and Nitrofurantoin are a few of the many safe antibiotics you may be safely prescribed by your physician
  • Constipation, hemorrhoids, or diarrhea: Colace, Metamucil, Fibercon, Preparation H, Anusol, Imodium
  • Heartburn, nausea, reflux, or indigestion: Tums, Dramamine, Zantac, Maalox, Gaviscon
  • Topical medications: Monistat, any over the count 7-day antifungal cream, Hydrocortisone, Benadryl Cream, Bengay, Tiger Balm, Therapatch

Unsafe medications for pregnancy

  • Ibuprofen
  • Products containing aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Products containing the decongestant pseudoephedrine

Some alternatives for cold medicines that can help relieve symptoms include saline sprays, steam, and neti pots. We explore these natural cold and flu remedies in greater detail here: Pregnancy-safe ways to knock out a cold.

We’ve partnered with Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a major teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, to answer your most pressing questions about your health during pregnancy and beyond. Have a question you’d like our team of doctors to answer? Leave it in the comments below and the BWH staff may answer it in an upcoming article. 

About our doctors: Louise E. Wilkins-Haug, MD, PhD is the Division Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine and Reproductive Genetics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Sarah Elizabeth Little, MD, MPH, is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.


  1. I am in 2 week wait and have bad cough and cold for last 4 days. I had tylenol cold + headache, just one caplet today. After having it I realized that it has guaifensin and phenylephrine and both are harmful when you’er pregnant. Though I don’t know I am pregnant or not, but what if I am pregnant? Will it harm?

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