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Taking Medicine While Pregnant
January 2001

Q. I am 29 weeks pregnant and have a bad cold. Twice I've taken Dristan (Oxymetazoline Hydrochloride 0.05%) for congestion. I've since learned from the nurse I should not take this. What is the potential harm to my child from what I've taken? I am also on Brethene for pre-term labor.

A. The question of medication used during pregnancy is an important one. If you look up a medication in a book such as the "Physician's Desk Reference" which is quite comprehensive, you will find that there is a section on "usage during pregnancy" but the information about this is quite limited. The book will often state things like "safety in pregnancy has not been established" due to the limitations of such testing. The safety data is based on animal models and translating that into predictions for human safety is very speculative. Some drugs are clearly unsafe in pregnancy but the data for most is very incomplete.

Most obstetricians are quite conservative on the issue, meaning they try to minimize the use of medication for the reasons discussed above. The very brief use of the medicine you describe is likely of little consequence, but you should discuss the specifics with your doctor. Additional caution is needed when 2 or more drugs are taken in the same time period as there can be some incompatibilities.




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