Taking medicines when pregnant

When you’re pregnant you need to take extra care with medicines.

Most medicines will cross over from your bloodstream to your baby, including:

  • prescription medicines
  • medicines from the pharmacy for minor health problems
  • herbal medicines and natural remedies

Make sure your GP, dentist, pharmacist or other healthcare professional knows you’re pregnant before they prescribe anything or give you treatment. It’s always best to check before you take any kind of medicine.

Unplanned pregnancies

Not all pregnancies are planned. Some women will already be taking medication when they find out they’re pregnant.

If this happens to you, don't stop taking medications without checking with your GP. Stopping important medicines suddenly could harm both you and your baby.

Which medicines are safe?

Some medicines are safe to take when you’re pregnant, while others can be harmful for your developing baby, including some common medicines.

Before you take anything – or stop taking anything – it’s important to get the right advice. You can ask your midwife, pharmacist or GP. You should get advice about each medicine you take.

If you’re already taking any medicine

If you’re already taking any medicine, tell your GP you’re pregnant as soon as possible. Together you can decide whether you still need the medicine and, if you do, your GP can make sure you’re taking the smallest amount for the shortest time.

Stopping taking prescribed medication suddenly could be harmful for you and your baby.

Find contact details for your GP practice

Prescription medicines

Speak to your GP, obstetrician or a drug support service if you’re regularly taking these types of prescribed medicines:

  • sleeping tablets, such as temazepam
  • medicines for anxiety, such as diazepam
  • opiate type painkillers, such as codeine, tramadol or dihydrocodeine.
  • medicines for epilepsy or mental health such as sodium valproate or valproic acid
  • treatment for type 1 or type 2 diabetes

Don’t stop taking any medicine that’s been prescribed without checking with your GP or obstetrician first

Stopping important medicines suddenly could harm you and your baby. Your GP or obstetrician will help you decide what to take and how much to take, to keep you and your baby as safe as possible during pregnancy.

Epilepsy medicines

If you have epilepsy and you're thinking about becoming pregnant or think you might be pregnant:

  • talk to your neurologist, epilepsy nurse or obstetrician about the medicines you’re taking - they will also talk to you about taking folic acid and generally help you to stay well during your pregnancy
  • keep taking your epilepsy medicine unless they tell you otherwise - this will give you the best chance of controlling seizures

You may need to change the medicines you take, or the amount you take, so that it’s safe for your baby. Stopping your medication suddenly could be harmful for you both.

Download Epilepsy Connections epilepsy medicine leaflet (PDF, 697KB)

Sodium valproate and Valproic acid

Sodium valproate (Epilim®/Epilim chrono®) and Valproic acid (Convulex®) have been linked to a higher chance of some babies having:

  • birth defects
  • developmental and learning problems

They're prescribed for epilepsy, but you could also be taking them for:

  • mental health problems
  • migraines

If you’re taking either medicine, your doctor will talk to you about the possible benefits and harms and together you can decide what to do.

The MHRA has guidance on valproate use by women and girls

Using your pharmacy

Your pharmacy's a great place to go for help and advice about medicines without the need for an appointment.

Your pharmacist can:

  • give you advice about minor illnesses - such as coughs, colds and aches and pains
  • suggest treatment
  • refer you to see a different health professional

Find a pharmacy in your area

Minor Ailment Service

You can register to use the free Minor Ailment Service (MAS) while you’re pregnant and for the first year after your baby's born.

You can continue to get free advice and medicines for your baby from your MAS until they're 16 years old.

The MAS is run by all community pharmacies in Scotland. If you’re registered to use it your pharmacist can give you:

  • advice or tell you should see your GP or another healthcare professional
  • medicine for a minor illness that you won’t need to pay for

If you’re getting medicine from a pharmacy that you’re not registered with, remember to tell the pharmacist that you’re pregnant.

How to register

To register for the MAS:

  1. Apply for a maternity exemption certificate - the receptionist at your GP practice should be able to help you with this
  2. Choose which pharmacy to register with (you can only register with one at a time)
  3. When you get your maternity exemption certificate (usually in the post, in an NHS stamped envelope) show it to the pharmacist and ask to register for the MAS
  4. Sign the registration form

When your baby's born, you’ll need to sign a form to register them too.

More about the Minor Ailment Service

Complementary therapy in pregnancy

Even though something's 'natural', doesn’t mean that it’s safe to use in pregnancy. There are some herbal remedies and complementary medicines that you shouldn’t take.

Be sure to tell your midwife, pharmacist or GP if you’re using:

  • complementary medicine
  • herbal remedies
  • homeopathy
  • aromatherapy

You should also get their advice before you use or take anything new.

If you’re using complementary therapies, it’s still important to go to your antenatal check-ups.

Finding a registered therapist

If you decide to use herbal or complementary therapy:

  • always go to someone who's properly qualified
  • check whether the practitioner has experience with pregnant women
  • make sure you tell them you’re pregnant before you have any treatment

Find a registered complementary therapist