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, 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.

Illegal drugs

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. 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).

If you feel that you cannot stop using any drug, help is available. Some maternity units have special addiction units. Being pregnant may be the extra encouragement you need to cope with giving up. Your midwife can put you in touch with support services, or speak to your family doctor.

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

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: 28 February 2017
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