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Dealing With Common Ailments During Pregnancy

Dealing With Common Ailments During Pregnancy

Before you were pregnant, dealing with common ailments like colds or stomachaches was a no-brainer. Got a headache? Just pop any of a variety of over-the-counter painkillers. Allergies acting up? Surely there are antihistamines in your medicine cabinet. But once you're pregnant, all that changes.

"If you can, it's better to avoid taking anything during the first trimester when the fetus is rapidly developing," says Johanna J. Abernathy, M.D., an obstetrician/gynecologist in private practice in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Even throughout your pregnancy, the best advice is, "If you don't need it, don't take it."

Many women, savvy enough to want to avoid medications during pregnancy, may turn to herbal remedies or teas for relief, assuming that these items are safe. While doctors believe that most of them are, several have been singled out for warnings. "Because these aren't viewed as medications, women may not necessarily tell their doctors about them," says Richard W. Henderson, M.D., an obstetrician/gynecologist at St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware. "Some, such as raspberry and ginger teas, have been used for centuries, and are considered safe. But six that may be harmful, because they make the uterus spasm and contract, are: Black cohosh, blue cohosh, chase tree berry, feverfew, ginseng, and gold seal."

Below are some recommendations from obstetricians for handling common, minor medical problems during pregnancy. As always, ask your own doctor for advice before taking any medications or even herbal remedies.


Headaches
Pregnant women should avoid the over-the-counter painkillers aspirin and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc.) during pregnancy. But acetaminophen (Tylenol) is considered safe. Common tension headaches are usually caused by stress, and may improve with relaxation techniques. Other headaches often have triggers -- such as chocolate -- that can be identified and eliminated. Women who suffer from migraines or other severe headaches will have to consult a doctor for stronger, safe
medication.


Muscle Aches
These generally go away on their own, but you can make yourself feel better with gentle massage or warm heat on the affected area. Tylenol can also relieve the pain. If muscle soreness doesn't disappear on its own after a few days, consult your doctor.


Nausea
Doctors prefer not to prescribe medication for the nausea that many women experience during the first trimester of pregnancy. Instead, they recommend steps like eating small meals and avoiding spicy foods. Some women find relief with acupressure therapy, where points on the wrist are pressed. These devices, usually marketed for motion sickness, range from an inexpensive elastic bands with plastic dots to provide pressure, to more complicated (and expensive) electric gadgets that vary the amount of pressure or the speed of the pulses. Severe nausea and vomiting -- called hyperemesis -- requires a doctor's care.


Heartburn or Indigestion
Doctors say most of the over-the-counter antacids are safe during pregnancy, including Tums, Gaviscon, non-sodium Rolaids, Mylanta, and Maalox. Avoiding greasy or spicy foods and caffeine, which seem to irritate the stomach, may also help.


Colds and Allergies
Humidifiers, vaporizers and drinking lots of fluids can help with cold and allergy symptoms. If you're suffering badly early in your pregnancy, the safest option is a nasal spray such as Neosynephrine, since nasal sprays have a local effect, and aren't absorbed much into the bloodstream. After the first trimester, your doctor may give you the okay to use over-the-counter decongestants such as Actifed or Sudafed. Many antihistamines are also considered safe after the first trimester; ask your doctor for specific recommendations.


Cough
While many over-the-counter cough syrups are safe, the big concern here is the alcohol they contain. Even though the amount of alcohol consumed in a few teaspoons of cough syrup is minimal, it's wise to ask your physician or pharmacist to recommend a cough syrup with no- or low-alcohol content.

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About The Author

Beth Weinhouse is a frequent contributor to Your Baby Today. She specializes in women's and children's health issues and lives in Oxford, Mississippi with her husband and 6-year-old son.

The content on these pages is provided as general information only and should not be substituted for the advice of your physician.


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