Will your chronic medication affect your pregnancy?

Posted on 5 February 2019

Most expectant moms would prefer sailing through pregnancy without having to take medication. However, sometimes high-risk pregnancies or chronic medication make that impossible. Dr Ameera Adam, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Mediclinic Constantiaberg, sheds some light.

Unplanned pregnancy

“It is imperative for a patient with a known chronic illness to plan their pregnancy with their treating physician and gynaecologist. Their doctor will review and possibly stop or change any medication they’re taking,” says Dr Adam. But what if you’re already pregnant?

Don’t panic. Avoid taking even over-the-counter (OTC) remedies without consulting your doctor. List everything you’ve taken recently, including all prescription and OTC medications and supplements.

Should I stop taking medication for my ongoing condition if I become pregnant?

Not necessarily. “It depends on several factors such as the condition being treated, the severity of your symptoms, and the degree of risk to your unborn baby. While it is true that most drugs do cross the placenta to some extent, very few are teratogenic,” says Dr Adam (a teratogen is an agent that can disturb the development of the embryo or foetus). However, medicines that treat high blood pressure may not be safe to take when you’re pregnant. They can reduce the blood flow to the placenta and your baby, or affect your baby in other ways.

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Can I wean myself off antidepressants?

Dr Adam cautions against stopping or weaning yourself off medication before consulting with your medical team. “Patients should weigh the risks versus the benefits. Ultimately, it’s better to have a happy, healthy pregnancy. The mood of the mother can affect the outcome of the pregnancy as stress at any level could negatively affect the baby,” says Dr Adam. Only reduce your dosage under the supervision of your doctor, who can help assess how low a dose you can tolerate.

Can I stop taking chronic medication?

Your doctor is likely to change your prescription. Some high blood pressure medications are considered safe, and some aren’t. Your treating obstetrician will require more antenatal visits to monitor the health and growth of your baby. According to Dr Adam, diabetic medication is seldom changed. But, your doctor will advise you on how often to test your glucose (blood sugar) levels.

The reality is that very few medications have been proven safe in pregnancy. “Ethically, studies will not be carried out on pregnant women. This makes it crucial that every drug should be taken with caution and only if necessary. Ultimately, it’s a decision you should make together with your health provider based on what’s best for you and your pregnancy,” says Dr Adam.

In addition, eat healthily, know what’s off-limits and do some form of mild exercise like walking. “The challenges that a woman with chronic health conditions faces can be managed well if the pregnancy is planned and antenatal visits are regular. A happy, healthy pregnancy with an end result of a healthy mom and baby is what we strive for.”

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Published in Conditions

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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