Pregnancy is often a beautiful and long-awaited journey for many. Whether it’s your first time or you’ve been through several pregnancies, you’re probably researching what’s best for your baby. 

Doctors advise taking precautions during this time to ensure you carry your baby to term and avoid miscarriages and other complications. It’s said that one way of being cautious is avoiding taking medicine without a doctor’s consultation. You can get tempted to do so in many situations, especially if you have a minor issue like a headache. As easy as it might sound, you could do more harm than good to your unborn baby.

Pregnant woman cradling her belly

It begs the question; what Over-The-Counter (OTC) drugs should you avoid when pregnant?

Here’s what to avoid:

  1. Tylenol

Tylenol contains acetaminophen, which doctors use to relieve pain. The pain can be mild, like a minor headache, or severe, like arthritis. It’s also used for fever and allergies like coughs and colds. 

It’s believed that taking Tylenol when pregnant increases the chances of your baby developing developmental issues like cerebral palsy, delayed talking, and autism. Did you know there’s a Tylenol autism lawsuit that’s ongoing? It’s the result of pregnant women getting Tylenol OTC without information on the side effects, only for their children to develop autism later in life. At the time, the side effects of Tylenol on unborn children weren’t clear. From this example, it’s clear you shouldn’t buy OTC medication when pregnant without consulting your doctor.

  1. Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen is a common OTC drug. It aids in reducing inflammation, fever, and pain. Health experts say it reduces the production of hormones that cause inflammation, alleviating the pain. 

It’s believed that taking this drug when pregnant can cause a miscarriage, especially in the first trimester. Other complications touch on kidney and heart problems for the baby, and possible fertility issues for the unborn child, if it’s a girl.

  1. Aspirin

Aspirin is another medication used to treat inflammation and pain from headaches, arthritis, and period pains. It’s also used in certain situations to prevent strokes and heart attacks.

Doctors don’t recommend taking aspirin when pregnant, as it is believed to lead to miscarriage and placenta abruption. Placenta abruption is where the uterus prematurely detaches from the placenta. In other cases, your child can develop birth defects. 

  1. Sudafed

Sudafed is a medication used to treat allergies associated with the respiratory system, like sinus congestion and the common cold. It works by constricting blood vessels, which eases sinus congestion.  

The intake of Sudafed during pregnancy is said to slow down blood flow in the uterine wall, which affects the baby’s growth. Birth defects like gastroschisis are also possible. The baby’s intestines will protrude outside the body through a hole near its belly button.

Health experts discourage the use of Sudafed in the first trimester; it’s more or less safe in the second and third, but with the doctor’s observation. However, if you have high blood pressure, refrain from taking Sudafed in either of the three trimesters.

  1. Lomotil

Lomotil is a combination of Atropine and Diphenoxylate and is used to treat diarrhea. It does this by slowing down bowel movement, helping you to manage the condition better. An upset stomach is quite common when pregnant, which might prompt you to head OTC. Some health experts also use it to prevent spasms in gut muscles.

It’s said that Lomotil can cause congenital defects in your child if you ingest it when pregnant. These develop after your child’s birth. Therefore, refrain from ingesting it when pregnant.

  1. Pepto Bismol

Pepto Bismol is another drug used to treat diarrhea, indigestion, and inflammation of the stomach lining. It’s said to do this by killing bacteria that cause diarrhea. It’ll also prevent the release of prostaglandin, which is responsible for inflammation.

It’s believed taking Pepto Bismol when pregnant increases the chances of bleeding when giving birth. It might make the process complicated. Your baby, on the other hand, is likely to develop heart-related abnormalities. 


When you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t take anything to chance. The discussion has established that one way to care for yourself and your baby is to avoid taking over-the-counter drugs. It’s a common practice for minor illnesses that you normally wouldn’t visit a doctor. Based on this, the read has further highlighted the common OTC drugs to avoid when pregnant by discussing possible side effects.

Be sure to implement this guide during your pregnancy journey. It’s best to work with a doctor for illnesses, no matter how small. They’re better placed to advise and recommend the ideal medication for you without affecting your unborn child.