Pregnancy contraindications drugs- Unsafe medicines for pregnant females

General rules about pregnancy medications change constantly. In such a case, the female can be confused about which medicine is safe and which is unsafe for her in pregnancy if she falls sick. 

When it comes to medicines in pregnancy, usually it comes down to weighing the benefits for the pregnant female with a health condition, which can be as simple as a headache against the potential risks to the developing baby.

The problem, in this case, is simple. Scientists cannot ethically perform drug testing on a pregnant female. It is not accurate to say medication is 100 % safe for a pregnant woman (simply because it has never been studied or tested).

In the past, medications were assigned to 5 letter categories based on the level of their risk. Category A was considered the safest category of drugs to take. Drugs in Category X were unsafe, the ones that should never be used during pregnancy.


Unsafe medicines in pregnancy

Pregnancy contraindications drugs

In the year 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started implementing a new labeling system for drugs. Below are the medicines considered unsafe in pregnancy and should be strictly avoided in pregnancy.

  • Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and levofloxacin

Both ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and levofloxacin are types of antibiotics that can possibly cause problems with the fetus’s muscle and skeletal growth and cause joint pain and potential nerve damage in the pregnant female.

Ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin are fluoroquinolones, which can increase the risk of aortic ruptures or tears. This might result in life-threatening bleeding.


Females with a history of aneurysms or some heart diseases can be at an increased risk of side effects. Fluoroquinolones can also increase the risks of having a miscarriage, as per a 2017 study.


  • Primaquine

Primaquine is the drug used to treat malaria. There is not a lot of data on pregnant females who have taken this drug. But, similar animal studies suggest that it is harmful to developing fetuses and can damage blood cells in the fetus.


  • Chloramphenicol

Pregnancy contraindications drugs

This is an antibiotic that is usually given as an injection. This drug can lead to serious blood disorders and cause the gray baby syndrome.

  • Sulfonamides

Sulfonamides are a bunch of antibiotic medications. They are also known as sulfa drugs. The majority of sulfonamide types of drugs are used to kill germs and treat bacterial infections. But, if taken during pregnancy, they can cause jaundice in newborns and also increase the risks of having a miscarriage.


  • Trimethoprim (Primsol)

Trimethoprim (Primsol) is a type of antibiotic and when consumed during pregnancy, it can cause neural tube defects which can affect brain development in the developing baby.

  • Codeine

Codeine is a prescription drug used as a pain reliever. This drug has the potential to become addictive and it can lead to withdrawal symptoms in infants.

  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)

Pregnancy contraindications drugs

High doses of this Ibuprofen, an over the counter pain reliever can cause various serious problems, such as-

  • miscarriage
  • delayed labor
  • premature closing of the fetal ductus arteriosus
  • jaundice
  • fetal kernicterus (brain damage)
  • abnormal vitamin K levels
  • hemorrhaging for both female and baby
  • necrotizing enterocolitis (damage to the lining of the intestines)
  • oligohydramnios (low levels of amniotic fluid)

Most experts believe that ibuprofen is safe to use in small to moderate doses in pregnancy. But still, the best thing to do is to ask your doctor.  


It is especially important to avoid ibuprofen in the third trimester of pregnancy. However, during this stage, ibuprofen is more likely to cause heart defects in the developing baby.

  • Warfarin (Coumadin)

Warfarin (Coumadin) is a blood thinner used to treat and prevent blood clots. This medicine can cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy.

  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)

Clonazepam is a drug used to prevent seizures and panic disorders. It is sometimes prescribed to treat anxiety or panic attacks. Taking clonazepam in pregnancy can lead to withdrawal symptoms in infants.

  • Lorazepam (Ativan)

Lorazepam (Ativan) is a common drug used for anxiety or other mental health disorders but can cause birth defects or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in the baby after birth.

The bottom line

pregnant female at doctor

If you are not sure whether or not a particular medication is safe to take in pregnancy or not, ask your doctor. Also, talk to your doctor about updated studies, as the pregnancy drug labels can change with new research.


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