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Medicines During Pregnancy


Medicines you can take during pregnancy

It can be hard to know if a medicine is safe during pregnancy. Most medicines are not studied in people who are pregnant. That's because researchers worry about how the medicines might affect the baby. But some medicines have been taken for so long by so many people during pregnancy that doctors have a good idea of how safe they are.

In general, doctors say it is usually safe to take the following.

Prescription medicines
  • Some medicines for high blood pressure
  • Most medicines for asthma
  • Some medicines for depression
  • Penicillin and some other antibiotics
  • Medicines for HIV
Over-the-counter medicines
  • Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) for fever and pain
  • Some allergy medicines, including loratadine (such as Alavert and Claritin) and diphenhydramine (such as Benadryl)
  • Some over-the-counter cold medicines

Talk to your doctor or midwife about any medicines you take. This includes over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements.

Deciding about medicines during pregnancy

Doctors usually recommend avoiding medicines during pregnancy, if possible, especially during the first 3 months. That is when a fetus's organs form.

But what if you take medicine for a health problem, such as high blood pressure or asthma? Your doctor or midwife will look at the risks. A medicine may have risks, but not treating your illness could be risky too. If you would face worse problems without treatment, then your doctor or midwife may keep you on your current medicine or switch you to another one. Some medicines that aren't safe in the first trimester may be safe to use later in the pregnancy.

Medicines you need to avoid during pregnancy

Some medicines are known to increase the chance of birth defects or other problems. But sometimes there's more risk for you and your baby if you stop taking a medicine (such as one that controls seizures) than if you keep taking it. You can work with your doctor or midwife to make the safest medicine choices.

Some medicines that increase the risk of birth defects are:

  • The acne medicine isotretinoin. This medicine is very likely to cause birth defects. It should not be taken if you are pregnant or may become pregnant.
  • ACE inhibitors, such as benazepril and lisinopril. These medicines are used to treat high blood pressure and some heart conditions.
  • Some medicines to control seizures, such as valproic acid.
  • Methotrexate. It is sometimes used to treat arthritis.
  • Warfarin. It helps prevent blood clots.
  • Lithium. It is used to treat bipolar depression.
  • Alprazolam (such as Xanax), diazepam (such as Valium), and some other medicines used to treat anxiety.

Folic acid

Folic acid is a B vitamin. Taking it before and during early pregnancy reduces the risk that your baby will have a neural tube defect or other birth defects.

  • During childbearing age, you should get 0.4 mg (400 mcg) to 0.8 mg (800 mcg) of folic acid. You can get it from fortified foods (such as cereals) and supplements.
  • If you are pregnant with twins or more, you should get 1 mg (1000 mcg) of folic acid daily.

You may need even more folic acid if you have a family history of neural tube defects, had a baby with this defect, or take medicines for seizures. Experts recommend 4 mg (4000 mcg) of folic acid a day.

If you need extra folic acid, work with your doctor. Don't try to do it on your own by taking more multivitamins. You could get too much of the other substances that are in the multivitamin.

Related Information


Current as of: July 10, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.