Medical reported on a recent study published by my alma mater (Boston University) that’s worth sharing with my readers. For years, I’ve been advising pregnant women to be very careful about taking medications during the first trimester and would be shocked when some of them would come to my office carrying prescriptions given to them by a hospital emergency room staff. In the past decade, I’ve observed a lax concern regarding first trimester exposure to medications by healthcare providers which gave me concern. The first trimester, especially from the 6th to 10th week of pregnancy is extremely important because it is the time that the central nervous system (including the brain) is developing in the baby.

Based on Dr. Allen Mitchell’s research suggests that over-the-counter decongestants, particularly pseudoephedrine, have been linked with a small percentage of babies (2.7 per 1000 births) who had heart problems.  This is the first study that investigated the risks of using nasal decongestants during pregnant and quite honestly, it’s long overdue. According to the study, there is a small risk for the following birth defects:

  • Phenylpropanolamine (found in Acutrim) has been associated with an 8-fold increase in defects of the ear and stomach
  • Pseudoephedrine (found in Sudafed) has a 3-fold increase in limb reduction defects
  • Imidazolines (found in nasal sprays and eye drops) has a 2-fold increase in abnormal connections between the trachea and esophagus
  • Phenylephrine (which is found in Sudafed) has been associated with an 8-fold increase in heart defects. Of note, because phenylephrine is used to make methamphetamines (commonly known as “meth,” it is now kept under lock-and-key by pharmacists

Since many of these decongestants are over-the-counter medications, it’s assumed that they are safe to take during pregnancy. A better approach might be to have a discussion with your physician or midwife before purchasing them, especially if you are in the first trimester of your pregnancy.

Remember, a healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do.

Are you able to recognize a red flag regarding your pregnancy? If not, then pick up a copy of The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy.