Objective: The most common medications used in pregnancy are nonprescription or over-the-counter medications, although there has been little research on their risks or safety. We describe the patterns of over-the-counter medication use among pregnant women.
Study design: Data were collected in 2 case-control studies of birth defects: the Slone Epidemiology Center Birth Defects Study (BDS) and the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS).
Results: Among 7563 mothers of malformed and nonmalformed offspring in the Slone Epidemiology Center Birth Defects Study and 2970 mothers of nonmalformed offspring in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and pseudoephedrine were used by at least 65%, 18%, and 15%, respectively. Among women in the Slone Epidemiology Center Birth Defects Study, the use in pregnancy of aspirin and chlorpheniramine decreased from 1976 to 2004 and of ibuprofen, pseudoephedrine, diphenhydramine, dextromethorphan, and guaifenesin increased. Among women in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, the use of acetaminophen, pseudoephedrine, diphenhydramine, and guaifenesin was higher during pregnancy than before pregnancy.
Conclusion: Findings show that over-the-counter medications are used by most pregnant women. Studies that examine specific over-the-counter medications in relation to specific birth defects are necessary to better inform pregnant women about risks and safety.