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Alcohol and drugs

  • Stay away from alcohol, cigarettes and drugs during pregnancy.
  • These substances can seriously harm you and your baby.
  • Talk to your health provider and seek help to quit.
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    Drugs, herbs and dietary supplements

    Street drugs, over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, dietary supplements, herbal preparations, and some medications can hurt your baby. Some can cause birth defects. Others can cause your baby to be born too small or very sick.

    A woman who is pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant should tell her provider about any drugs she takes to make sure they are safe for pregnancy.

    Street drugs
    Illegal drugs, including cocaine, marijuana and Ecstasy, may cause birth defects. Pregnant women should not take street drugs and should tell their providers if they need help to quit. For information about drug treatment in your area, go to the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator.

    Before you're pregnant
    A woman taking any of the following drugs should talk to her provider before getting pregnant. She may need to switch to a safer drug for pregnancy:

    • ACE inhibitors (enalapril or captopril)
    • Androgens and testosterone by-products
    • Anticancer drugs
    • Antifolic acid drugs, like methotrexate or aminopterin
    • Carbamazepine
    • Levothyroxine
    • Lithium
    • Phenytoin
    • Streptomycin and kanamycin
    • Tetracycline
    • Trimethadione and paramethadione
    • Valproic acid
    • Warfarin and other coumarin by-products

    Prescription drugs during pregnancy
    If you are pregnant and taking any of the following drugs, stop taking the medicine immediately and call your health care provider:

    • Isotretinoins such as Amnesteem, Claravis, Accutane and Sotret and other retinoids
    • Soriatane (acitretin)
    • Thalomid (thalidomide)
    • Revlimid (lenalidomide)

    If you are pregnant and taking any other prescription drugs, talk to your provider before stopping the medication. Sometimes stopping a drug suddenly can have a health risk. 

    Even some nonprescription medications may carry a health risk, although it is generally small. For example, if a woman takes aspirin shortly before the day the baby is born, it can increase the risk of heavy bleeding in the mother and baby.

    Herbal products and dietary supplements
    The March of Dimes does not support the use of herbal or dietary supplements by women who can become pregnant, by pregnant women, or by children, without approval by a health care provider. While some supplements and herbal ingredients have undergone extensive testing, the safety and effectiveness of many have not been shown.

    More things you can do

    • Don't take someone else's prescription drugs.
    • Take only medications prescribed for you or recommended by a health care provider who knows you are pregnant.
    • Check with your provider before taking any over-the-counter drugs (including aspirin), pills, herbal products or dietary supplements.

    See also:  Medication Use During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

    July 2009

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    Things to avoid

    • Alcohol, in any quantity
    • Smoking and secondhand smoke
    • Herbs or supplements not OK with your doctor
    • Medicines obtained without prescription
    Talk with your doctor about all the medicines you take.

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