Is it safe to take medication while trying to conceive?

woman holding half full glass and white medicine pill

Is It Safe to Take Medication While Trying to Conceive?

When your goal is growing a healthy baby, you want to be extra cautious about what enters your body. If you take any prescription or over-the-counter medications regularly, is it safe to continue them while trying to conceive? Here are some guidelines on minimizing risks from medications when planning pregnancy.

Why Medications Matter Preconception

Certain medications can potentially impact your fertility and your future baby’s development in these ways:

  • Disrupt ovulation – Some drugs interfere with hormonal signals involved in ovulation. Without ovulating, you can’t get pregnant.
  • Worsen sperm health – Male fertility may decline with medications that affect hormones, decrease sperm count, or reduce motility.
  • Increase birth defect risk – Some drugs taken in very early pregnancy raise risks for congenital disabilities if organ development is disrupted.
  • Complicate pregnancy – Certain medications are considered unsafe for pregnancy itself and may increase chances of complications.

That’s why having an open conversation with your doctors about the safety, risks, and alternatives for your medications is very important preconception. Never stop prescribed medications abruptly without medical guidance.

Assessing Medication Safety

All medications come with potential risks and side effects, but some pose more hazards to fertility and fetal development than others. In general:

  • Prescription drugs require more caution than most over-the-counters.
  • Short-term use of medications is less concerning than long-term use.
  • The higher the dose of a drug, the higher the chance for adverse effects.

For greatest safety:

  • Take the minimal effective dose that controls your symptoms. Don’t take longer than directed.
  • Weigh whether over-the-counter options like acetaminophen or supplements can replace prescriptions.
  • Discuss any pre-existing conditions you manage with medications with your OB well before conception.

Categorizing Medication Risk for Pregnancy

The FDA classifies drug risks during pregnancy using these categories:

Category A – Considered safe, with no risks in human studies

Category B – Low risk in studies, but potential benefits outweigh risks

Category C – Risks cannot be ruled out based on animal and human studies

Category D – Positive evidence of risk, but benefits may outweigh risks

Category X – Unsafe, poses serious birth defect risk

Always thoroughly discuss medication risks and categories with your OBGYN or reproductive endocrinologist when planning pregnancy. Share all your health conditions and the drugs you take to manage them. They can help identify the safest options to achieve pregnancy.

Reducing Medication Use Preconception

If you don’t have a complex or unstable health condition requiring daily medication, you may consider these tips in partnership with your doctor:

  • Try lowering doses of non-essential medications under medical supervision.
  • For short-term use drugs, discontinue them 3 months before conception if possible.
  • Switch medications within the same drug class to safer alternatives if available.
  • Adopt lifestyle changes that may reduce your need for certain medications, like dietary changes.
  • Improve health through nutrition, supplements, stress relief, and other measures to minimize meds.
  • Consolidate prescriptions to be on the fewest necessary drugs.

The goal is to eliminate or reduce potentially risky medications through informed decisions with your healthcare providers. But don’t stop taking prescribed drugs before discussing with your doctor.

Safe Pain Management Options

For pain relief, some safer options trying to conceive include:

  • Acetaminophen – Use conservatively at low doses
  • Warm baths or compresses
  • Massage, acupuncture
  • Physical therapy
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Anti-inflammatory foods like fatty fish and turmeric

Avoid pain medications like ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin and stronger prescription narcotics when possible.

Discussing all your current medications with your OBGYN before conception enables you to make informed choices about safety for your fertility goals. Don’t panic if you’ve already been taking medications–your doctor can help mitigate risks and optimize your chances of a healthy pregnancy.

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