Medicine and drugs

Any drug may affect you or your baby, and that includes those you get on prescription, things you buy over the counter and some herbal remedies.

Prescribed drugs and over-the-counter medicines

You should tell your GP you’re pregnant if you’re being prescribed any medication, and also check with the pharmacist if it’s OK to take it when you’re pregnant. Check the label for yourself as well.

If you have a condition that means you take prescription drugs all the time, for example for epilepsy or cardiac problems it is important to talk to your GP or specialist when you are planning to get pregnant, or as soon as possible if the pregnancy was unplanned. You should not stop taking prescribed drugs without advice from your GP.

If you are taking medication for a mental health problem you should discuss the pros and cons of continuing or not with your GP or psychiatrist. If you decide to buy any medicines for yourself also check this with your pharmacist, and then GP if required.

Epilepsy and pregnancy

The good news is that most women with epilepsy will have a straightforward pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. If you have epilepsy it is important that you contact your epilepsy specialist nurse (your GP can advise you how to do this), ideally before you become pregnant or as soon as possible if the pregnancy was unplanned. It is recommended that most women with epilepsy who are hoping to start a family should be prescribed folic acid tablets - usually 5mg daily. You should start taking folic acid when you stop contraception or start trying to get pregnancy and continue taking it for at least the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. If you smoke there is lots of help and support to help you quit. Particularly for women with epilepsy, those who do not smoke have fewer pregnancy complications and healthier babies. 

Unless you are advised otherwise, you should keep taking your anti-epileptic medication while you are pregnant. This gives you the best chance of controlling seizures. Stopping medication suddenly can put women with epilepsy and their unborn baby at risk. Your neurologist, epilepsy specialist nurse, obstetrician or GP will talk to you about your epilepsy medication. 

Epilepsy support is also available from Epilepsy Connections on 0141 248 4125.

Sodium valproate and valproic acid

Sodium valproate (Epilim®/Episenta®/Epival®) and valproic acid (Convulex®) are associated with a higher risk of problems. These may be prescribed for epilespy or for other conditions such as mental health conditions or migraine. If you are prescribed one of these the risks and benefits will be discussed with you and you will be supported to reach a decision. You can find more information at

Minor Ailment Service

Pregnant women and children under 16 years old are eligible for the Minor Ailment Service (MAS) which is provided by NHS community pharmacies across Scotland.
You can register with and use your community pharmacy as the first port of call for the consultation and treatment of common self-limiting illnesses. The pharmacist can advise, treat or refer you to another healthcare professional according to your needs.

Substance misuse

No recreational drugs are safe at any time and especially during pregnancy. These can affect your baby, directly or indirectly. For example, cocaine and crack are especially dangerous as they have an immediate effect on the baby’s blood supply. The effect of Ecstasy on a baby’s brain is not yet known. If you are addicted to drugs, help is available to support you. Being pregnant may be the extra encouragement you need to cope with giving up. Some maternity units will provide special care or help if you need it. Your midwife, GP or antenatal clinic can put you in touch with specialist help. (See National Services).

Infections during pregnancy

If you have a rash or come in contact with someone with a rash during your pregnancy, you must let your midwife, GP or obstetrician know immediately. Please avoid any antenatal clinic, maternity setting or other pregnant women until you have been assessed. Any illness where you have a fever and a rash may be due to you having an infectious disease which could harm your unborn baby. You may be offered tests to find out if you have been infected. The health professional that assesses you will need to know

  • how many weeks pregnant you are
  • when the contact with someone with a rash illness was
  • the date that you first developed or had contact with someone with a rash
  • a description of the rash (e.g. is it a raised, bumpy rash or is it blisters filled with fluid?)
  • what infections you have had in the past, e.g. chicken pox
  • what immunisations you have previously had.


Rubella is usually a mild illness, but if you are infected in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy it can harm your baby and may affect development, causing deafness and blindness for example.

Most women in the UK are immune to rubella thanks to uptake of vaccines against rubella, which are now given as measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) immunisation. If you are not sure whether you have had two doses of the MMR vaccine, you can check your immunisations record with your GP.

If you have not had two doses of the vaccine, your GP will give you health advice and you may be offered immunisation after giving birth. You should contact your midwife or GP if you develop a rash or come into contact with someone with a rash during pregnancy.

Last Updated: 06 February 2018
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