Safer Medication Use During Pregnancy to Prevent Birth Defects


For many people, taking daily medication is vital for continued health and not a “choice” to stop during pregnancy.  For those planning to conceive, it’s important to know the benefits and risks of medication use as they relate to health in prepregnancy, pregnancy, and birth. As part of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, we are sharing about Treating for Two, an initiative by the Centers for Disease Control that provides information to families and health care providers about safer medication use during pregnancy.

The One Thing to Know About Medication Before and During Pregnancy

Consult with your doctor(s).

Starting a medication? Talk to your doctor.

Stopping a medication? Talk to your doctor. 

Considering a medication? Talk to your doctor.

Supplements or vitamins/herbs? Talk to your doctor. 

According to the CDC:

Some untreated health conditions may actually be more harmful than the medicines used to control them. However, we know that some medicines can increase the risk of birth defects, pregnancy loss, prematurity, infant death, or developmental disabilities. A healthcare professional can help you weigh the risks and benefits of each medicine and determine the safest treatment for you and your developing baby.

The bottom line is, with anything medicinal (prescribed, over the counter, herbal, vitamins, supplements), both before pregnancy (in the years leading up to and when actively trying to conceive) and during pregnancy, talk first with you health care providers about starting, stopping, and continuing. Health care providers include your general practitioner/family doctor or nurse practitioner, your obstetrician, and your midwife. Your doctor will be able to discuss with you the possible risks of the medications and supplements you’re taking along with the best ways to keep your health conditions in check and your personal health goals and preferences for you and your baby. 


Medications Prior to Pregnancy

In addition to the golden rule, as outlined above, it helps to know that some medicines can cause birth defects very early in pregnancy. If you know you will be trying to conceive in the near future, create a treatment plan for your health condition early with your provider in order to keep you and your baby healthy. 

Medications During Pregnancy

Again, first and foremost, talk to your doctor. More specifically:

  • Review all prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, herbal and dietary supplements, and vitamins. 
  • Don’t start any new medicines or stop a current medicine without first talking to your health care provider.

A Note About Information Online

As is the case with just about everything: don’t trust everything you read and view online. Be careful consulting with online sources (text as well as videos) about medication safety before and during pregnancy. Use the information you find to discuss the specifics related to your particular health, goals, and preferences with your care provider. 

Medication Use After Pregnancy

Once again, refer to the golden rule — consult with our doctor about starting, stopping, continuing, or switching a medication or supplement. If you are breastfeeding or chest/body feeding, you will need to take medication use into consideration for you and your baby’s health in a new way. 


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