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Medication, Food & Drugs In Pregnancy

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By Dr. Sharon K.

Is it OK to drink coffee during pregnancy? How about eating hot dogs? A can of green beans sounds safe, right? Keep reading and I can tell you a little about the safety of some foods and medications during pregnancy.



ACOG (American College Of Obstetrics and Gynecology) mentions that caffeine use (less than 200 mg per day) does not appear to be a major contributing factor in miscarriage or preterm birth. A typical cup of brewed coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine. A caffeinated soda has about 35 mg of caffeine. Check the labels of your foods because even tea and chocolate can have a significant amount of caffeine.

Let’s talk about nitrites. Many deli meats, sausages and hot dogs have a preservatives called nitrates that help lengthen shelf life. Nitrites have been shown to cause cancer in adults. Although little is known about the effects on an unborn baby, it makes sense to avoid them in pregnancy and good practice to eventually stop consumption altogether. There are many nitrite-free products available, which may be a healthier substitute. Always consider fresh lean meats as alternatives to meats full of preservatives.

Canned foods have Bisphenol or BPA. This is a plastic lining over the aluminum of the cans to supposedly protect us against the metal. In reality we are eating the foreign material and in addition to causing cancer, it may also be linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity. It is always better to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. If we eat something that needs to be preserved, it may be healthier to get it from a glass jar. Another option to consider if there is limited access to fresh produce, is organic frozen fruits and vegetables.

Tylenol was once considered one of the safer medications to take during pregnancy until recently. Some recent studies show that there is a link between Tylenol and Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Please ask your doctor if you have pain during pregnancy and need a pain reliever. Tylenol is still considered safer than many other painkillers. For some people it is not an option to suffer through the pain. Remember, these studies are not perfect and there may be a difference between women who take Tylenol during their entire pregnancy versus a woman who takes an occasional Tylenol for a headache. This is just something to think about. Always know that you have your OB/GYN as a primary source of information and they should be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Prescription medications such as antidepressants may cause harm to your baby, but stopping antidepressants during pregnancy may also be harmful to the mother. Therefore, do not stop any medications without first consulting your doctor. The overall risk of some antidepressants in pregnancy is very low and they can include heart and or lung problems in the newborn. Another prescription anti-nausea medicine called Zofran is used quite frequently in pregnancy but recent studies show a possible link between it and heart defects and cleft lip and palate in the newborn.

Although it seems obvious that hard street drugs are harmful during pregnancy, there is evidence that even marijuana is linked to some adverse affects for the unborn child. Some newborns may have temporary withdrawal symptoms like tremors and/or irritability. There is an increased risk of preterm delivery and a possible risk of behavioral or attention problems in these children later in life.

The overall point is that if you are pregnant and don’t know whether a medication or food you are is safe, please ask your doctor.

Safer Than Sorry

Safe In Pregnancy
(not a complete list)


Some stool softeners

Some allergy medications

Not safe in pregnancy
(not a complete list)



Deli cheeses and meats

Canned food

Excessive fish

Herbal medications

Some antidepressants

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