Pregnant Or Nursing?
If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, are currently pregnant, or are breastfeeding a baby, your pharmacist can help you with your medication needs. While many people believe that all medications need to be stopped during pregnancy, it’s important to know that there is a two to three per cent baseline risk of the development of major abnormalities (birth defects) in babies of women not taking any medications. In addition, women may be at significant risk by stopping medication used in the treatment of certain conditions. When assessing the risk of taking medications during these times, keep in mind that medications that do not change the baseline risk are considered safe, while medications that increase risk should generally be avoided. Your pharmacist can help you with the following issues related to pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Medication safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding: Your pharmacist can provide you with up-to-date information to help you determine if your medications are safe. This includes prescription medications, as well as vitamins and traditional over-the-counter products. Your pharmacist can also provide you with guidance as to the safety of dietary supplements and natural health products, recognizing that “natural” does not always mean “safe,” especially when considering pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Medication changes during pregnancy and breastfeeding: Pregnancy produces several physiological changes, which can affect the way certain medications are processed in the body. Sometimes the dosage may need to be adjusted (up or down) during pregnancy, and in some cases the medication may need to be changed. Some medications may be excreted into breast milk. Your pharmacist can help you change the timing of your medication so that your baby’s exposure through breast milk is reduced.
- Chronic disease management: Managing chronic conditions like depression, diabetes, and hypertension during pregnancy is critical, and so stopping medications on your own may put you and your baby at increased risk. Your chronic condition may change during pregnancy or the postpartum period. Your pharmacist will work with you and your doctor to help you manage your conditions optimally.
- Vitamin and nutritional needs: Vitamin, mineral, and nutritional needs may be different prior to pregnancy, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding. While “natural” product supplements are often thought of as being safe, there is little information on their safety during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Your pharmacist can help you determine what vitamins and/or supplements are appropriate to use and which should be avoided.
- Self-care for you and your baby: Pregnant and breastfeeding women experience the same minor illnesses as other women, but self-care options differ. If you experience a cold or the flu during pregnancy or breastfeeding, your pharmacist can help you with appropriate self-care. Pregnancy is also a time when you may experience new ailments such as nausea and vomiting, heartburn, and constipation. Your pharmacist can help you manage these symptoms appropriately and may even be able to offer tips and strategies to help prevent them from occurring in the first place. Your pharmacist is also a great resource for minor infant ailments such as colic, fever, and constipation.
- Smoking cessation for you and your baby: Smoking during and after pregnancy while breastfeeding is dangerous to your health and the health of your baby. Your pharmacist is always available to help you get started on the path to quitting, and can provide you with counselling, advice, recommendations for suitable smoking cessation aids, and support throughout the process.