What medications should I avoid while trying to become pregnant?

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If you’re trying to conceive, you might be wondering what you can do to increase your fertility levels, along with the chances of experiencing a healthy and happy pregnancy. This is a great first step because exposure to certain medications, drugs, or essential oils prior to pregnancy can cause unintended consequences for both mom and baby.

To boost your chances of achieving conception and experiencing a healthy pregnancy, here are some important tips to follow to ensure you don’t inadvertently cause harm to yourself—or your baby.

Drugs to avoid before conception

Taking certain drugs, drinking alcohol, or using tobacco is not only unhealthy to a pregnant woman, but it can also have devastating health effects on her baby. This includes, but is not limited to, preterm birth, low birth weight, and respiratory problems. Long-term behavioral and cognitive problems can also emerge if a fetus is exposed to these substances.

By taking certain substances before you get pregnant, you can also drop your fertility levels. For instance, there are some medications that can negatively affect ovulation or sperm counts. This being the case, you’ll want to be careful, even with the seemingly harmless type of drugs you routinely keep in your medicine cabinet. Here are some drug types to be cautious about using when trying to conceive.

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including Motrin, Advil and prescription NSAIDs
  • Antidepressants and other psychiatric medications
  • Steroids, including anabolic steroids and corticosteroids (i.e. prednisone and cortisone)
  • Antiepileptic prescriptions
  • Chemotherapy
  • Opioid-based medications
  • Thyroid medications (need to be monitored carefully for correct dosages)
  • Any illegal drugs

If you’re thinking of becoming pregnant, discussing medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, is definitely a topic you want to talk about in detail with your doctor. This is especially true if you are taking medications for an existing condition, or wish to take medications to combat other health issues or pain you might be experiencing.

Stay away from opioids

This drug deserves a special mention since its use has become such an epidemic in America. The classification of ”opioid” includes both prescription pain relievers and illegal drugs. A big part of the problem comes from doctor-prescribed medications. Common drugs routinely prescribed to patients include OxyContin®, Vicodin®, Percodan®, Percocet®, Demerol®, and Tylox®, to name a few.

When pregnant women use opiates, babies can be born with a condition called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). Infants born with NAS usually require significant medical intervention which can include long hospital stays and ongoing medical care. According to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, every 15 minutes a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal. These are devastating statistics when you think about the number of babies born with NAS every day.  Opioids of any type are powerful drugs and highly addictive; women who aren’t yet pregnant often can develop a drug addiction problem. They’ll have a hard time quitting—and may not be able to if they do conceive while still using.

Remember to ask your doctor about any prescriptions given, as many opioid drugs have generic names.

Be careful about using certain essential oils

Essential oils are often touted as being a natural solution to numerous ails. While it’s true some oils may relieve symptoms or have a calming effect which can be very beneficial to a person, there are definitely numerous essential oils you want to avoid while you are trying to conceive because they can have negative consequences for pregnancy.

Seemingly harmless-sounding items such as parsley leaf, anise, carrot seed, sweet fennel, cinnamon bark, and oregano are not recommended, to name a few. Since you won’t know exactly when you will become pregnant, it’s better to think ahead and avoid these oils ahead of time so you and your baby aren’t harmed. (You can refer to this article to see an extensive list of oils you should avoid pre-pregnancy.)

Healthy tips for fertility and pregnancy

To achieve your goal of fertility and happy pregnancy, you can take several proactive steps. According to medical professionals, you can “prime” your body for conception and improve your ovulatory function by treating your body as if you are already pregnant.

  • Start a healthy diet. Eat lean proteins, eggs, plant proteins (beans, nuts, and tofu), fruits, vegetables, and plant-based fats (moderation). It’s OK to have carbohydrates but be selective about the ones you choose. Carb-based foods such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole grains (with little to no processing) are good healthy carb additions. One or two servings of full-fat dairy, milk, or even better yet, Greek or homemade yogurt, are also good diet accompaniments.
  • Avoid certain foods. Foods such as trans fats, processed carbohydrates, processed soy foods, sugars, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods are unhealthy and not recommended at any time, especially for pregnancy. When considering this, keep in mind there are foods that might be promoted as healthy (i.e. power bars or energy drinks) which should be bypassed before pregnancy. It’s also a good idea to limit caffeine intake before you get pregnant.
  • Take vitamins and supplements. Folic acid has long been known to be a positive supplement to take during pregnancy, but did you know it’s can also be favorable for ovulation? Other daily supplements to take include a good multi-vitamin and iron. Tip: Even if not yet pregnant, a doctor-recommended prenatal vitamin is an option for your multi-vitamin, which can include all these supplements in one pill.

When considering your diet, your best bet is to stick to whole foods as much as possible. If you can go organic, even better. If you limit ingestion of foods that might be ladled in pesticides, you could avoid potential negative effects. A 2017 study found women who ate foods containing pesticide residues reduced their fertility rates.

There are many positive changes you can make before you conceive. If you’re thinking about having a baby, don’t wait until you become to begin changing habits, start ahead of time. By doing so, you’ll have an easier chance of becoming pregnant and having a healthy and happy baby.

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