Pregnancy can bring a lot unwelcome symptoms - headaches, nausea and vomiting, heartburn, back ache, constipation, piles... well, the list goes on.
The trouble is, as easily solved as these minor ailments are usually, it's not advisable to pop to the chemist or supermarket and buy yourself some relief over the counter. Various medications can potentially pose a risk to your unborn baby, so at this time, you have to be extra careful.
Many medicines given on a repeat prescription for long-term conditions (such as diabetes, asthma and thyroid issues) will be safe – but as soon as you become pregnant you should tell your doctor, in case any alterations to your prescription need to be made.
Otherwise, the general rule of thumb, should you need any medication while you are pregnant, is to speak to you doctor or midwife first, and avoid over-the-counter medicines as much as possible.
Paracetamol is considered safe to take whilst pregnant (pure paracetamol, not a product with added caffeine), so if you have a fever or a headache (and headaches are common, particularly at the beginning), opt for these.
Avoid ibuprofen though – this anti-inflammatory drug carries with it a higher risk of miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy and, in the latter stages, could increase the chances of early labour.
Don't take any other types of painkiller, including codeine, without discussing it with your doctor first.
Many antibiotics are safe to take during pregnancy – but you should only ever take antibiotics which have been specifically prescribed for you. If you get some sort of infection, go to see your GP, who will give you the appropriate medicine.
Not all vaccinations can be given during pregnancy – but one that is recommended is the flu jab, which now also covers swine flu.
Having the jab does NOT give you flu, it provides vital protection against catching the infection – and if you do get the flu while pregnant, you are at increased risk of developing complications.
Your GP should offer you the jab if you have not had it already. An added bonus is that your baby will probably also be protected for the first few months of their life.
Medicine for sickness
If you get a tummy bug, there is little you can do apart from wait for it to pass. It will be terribly unpleasant, but the bug itself shouldn't cause your baby any harm. Often the biggest risk, should you get Norovirus or something similar, is the danger of dehydration. Oral rehydration sachets, available to buy from pharmacies, are safe to take when pregnant – and it's advisable to do so.
If you are suffering from very severe pregnancy sickness, you should see your GP, because they might be able to provide a safe anti-sickness medicine.
Ooh, heartburn – it can be a real problem for some women, particularly in the third trimester when the baby starts to put pressure on the stomach.
Ask your pharmacist to recommend a safe antacid, which will be one containing either alginate, or magnesium and aluminium.
If you suffer very badly from hay fever, you can probably safely take antihistamines containing chlorphenamine, but ask your doctor or pharmacist first. They might well recommend you try a nasal spray instead, and these can be very effective.
It's not really known for sure whether decongestants are entirely safe during pregnancy, so you shouldn't buy them over the counter – only take them if advised to by your GP.
If you are suffering with a cold, or blocked sinuses, try the good old fashioned method of steam inhalation and a cup of hot honey and lemon.
Medicine for piles
Ouch! Lots of women get them at some stage during pregnancy, and they're not nice at all. There are some creams and suppositories safe to use, so see your doctor or ask your midwife.
Medicine for constipation
If you get constipated, your first stop, as ever, should be your doctor. Your GP might well give you some advice about changing your diet, which could move things along a bit. But if that doesn't work, then they should be able to provide you with a mild and safe laxative.
Don't buy laxatives over the counter without getting advice first – some, containing senna, might not be suitable for pregnant women.
Cough mixtures and throat lozenges
There are actually lots of non-medicated products you can buy to relieve mild coughs and sore throats – ask your midwife or pharmacist to recommend one.
Here's to an easy and symptom-free pregnancy!
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