The topic of taking certain drugs during pregnancy has always been controversial. In the case of a normal, healthy woman experiencing a normal pregnancy, all drugs should be avoided during the entire pregnancy. However, in some cases the issue isn’t quite so simple.

Unfortunately, there have been limited studies to see which drugs are dangerous for pregnant women. Very few over-the-counter and prescription drugs have been found to be completely safe during pregnancy, but most of them haven’t even been tested. Because of the vital growth that takes place for a baby during pregnancy, and the fact that the baby essentially receives whatever the mother takes in, it is highly recommended that most women avoid all drugs completely during pregnancy.

Some of the more obvious drugs to avoid during pregnancy are alcohol (which is present in many over-the-counter cold medicines), nicotine (in cigarettes, chewing tobacco, or in any other form) and illegal drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine. All of these drugs have been proven harmful to a growing fetus and can cause low birth weight and birth defects. Prescription medications can also cause serious harm to a fetus, especially anti-depressants containing lithium, chemotherapy drugs, and drugs containing phenytoin. If you are taking a prescription, it is very important to immediately talk with your doctor about whether you should continue taking the medication during pregnancy.

Less obvious drugs to avoid during pregnancy include many of the common over-the-counter medications. The truth is, although these medications are available without a prescription, they still contain very powerful drugs. These drugs will pass through the placenta and onto your fragile baby during pregnancy. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen all can cause dangerous pregnancy complications and can harm a fetus. Common decongestants and cold medicines also contain powerful drugs which may have an adverse effect on your baby during pregnancy. Laxatives and diuretics should also be avoided during pregnancy.

The best way to treat most common illnesses during pregnancy is to apply simple home treatments. This usually includes getting extra rest, cutting out stressful influences in your daily life, drinking plenty of clear fluids, and eating properly. Regular exercise and fresh air will also help you stay healthy. If you are having trouble dealing with the symptoms of a particular illness during your pregnancy, you should consult your doctor or midwife about the safest way to treat it, preferably without drugs.

As stated before, there are some specific cases in which the benefits of drugs outweigh the risks of taking them during pregnancy. Women with diabetes, cancer, and HIV are examples of women who may need to continue taking their medications during their pregnancy, while under the watchful supervision of their doctor.