Updated: Apr 25, 2019
Is it safe to take evening primrose oil or sleeping pills during pregnancy?
This is a common question that my patients normally ask me. This article describes medications that are safe and harmful for pregnancy. Consult your doctor before taking medication.
#1 Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) in pregnancy
EPO is a plant extract and a supplement. EPO contains linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid. It also contains gammalinolenic acid, which produces prostaglandin for the body. Although there are reports of EPO inducing labour, there is insufficient research of EPO in pregnancy. So take at your own risk.
#2 Diazepam (sleeping pill) not suitable in pregnancy
Many studies have linked diazepam during pregnancy to risk of development problems (heart and stomach) and cleft. Heavy use of diazepam throughout pregnancy has been associated with multiple problems, including dysmorphism, small baby, craniofacial problems and neonatal withdrawal symptoms. Thus, I do not recommend.
#3 Tretinoin (Retin-A) is banned in pregnancy
Tretinoin (derived from Vitamin A) is given orally or topically to treat acne. Oral tretinoin is strictly banned in pregnancy as it causes multiple malformations in the developing baby. These include cleft palate, heart and eye anomalies. It can also cause spontaneous miscarriage. Children born to mothers who have been treated with tretinoin during pregnancy have reduced cognitive function.
#4 Slimming pill in pregnancy is to be avoided
Many slimming pills contain herbal products such as Garcinia and Chitosan. The safety profile of slimming pills are not established in pregnancy and thus, these slimming pills should be avoided.
#5 Mosquito repellants with DEET OK in pregnancy
DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is very effective in preventing mosquito bites. This will help protect against mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, Zika infection and dengue fever. Very little DEET gets absorbed through the skin. Animal studies show that DEET is safe for the fetus. 20% concentration of DEET may be safely applied onto clothing at any stage of pregnancy.
#6 Anti-oxidants recommended during pregnancy
Some studies recommend antioxidants like vitamin C and E in reducing high blood pressure during pregnancy. In one study, women with pre-eclampsia had significantly lower levels of Vitamin C. In severe pre-eclampsia, vitamin E is also significantly lower; thus, increasing antioxidants during pregnancy may help. Ask your doctor before using these products.
#7 Pain-killers safe during pregnancy
Taking pain-killers such as paracetamol is safe during pregnancy as it has no harmful effects on the fetus. Avoid ibuprofen or mefenamic acid which are NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). This class of drugs is not safe during pregnancy. They may affect the baby’s circulation, kidney function, or cause heart problems.