Eight out of ten pregnant women take over-the-counter medicines,
despite advice from doctors to take drugs only when necessary, a
new study shows.
A survey of 14,000 women asked them to report all medication
they had taken in pregnancy, including alternative remedies and
mineral and vitamin supplements.
More than a third took painkillers in early pregnancy, mostly
paracetamol which may have a link to wheezing in early childhood in
large doses. One third took iron supplements and 22 per cent folic
acid. 23 per cent used antacids in mid to late pregnancy.
Advice from the British Medical Association and Royal
Pharmaceutical Society is that medication should only be taken if
benefits to the mother outweigh risks to the foetus.
The study, for the Children in the 90s project, found that only
17 per cent of women took no conventional medication during
pregnancy, and most of these used alternative remedies or food
Dr Judith Headley, who led the research, said women should seek
a health professional’s advice before self-medicating. “It is
a long time since the world was shocked by the effects of
Thalidomide, so perhaps it is time to remind women that some drugs
can be harmful.”