While some medications are safe to use before and during pregnancy, others can affect your chances of getting pregnant, cause problems during pregnancy, or harm your baby.
Your doctor will give you the best advice about what medications and drugs are safe to take before and during pregnancy and can often suggest safe substitute medications to take while you’re trying to get pregnant.
Speak to your doctor about the safety of any medications and drugs you and your partner are taking, before you try to get pregnant.
It's best to stop taking prescription medications while trying to get pregnant.
Don’t stop taking any prescription medications until you've discussed this with your doctor or specialist.
The facts about medications and drugs
Many substances can be classified as drugs or medications, including:
- prescription drugs to treat chronic conditions, such as depression, asthma, thyroid conditions, diabetes high blood pressure, epilepsy, acne, or depression
- over-the-counter medications to treat headaches, pain, infections and colds
- complementary medicines, vitamins and mineral supplements and herbal remedies
- medications for cancer treatment
- recreational drugs like marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, cocaine or inhalants (glues or aerosols).
All drugs and medications pass into the bloodstream. Some directly affect sperm or eggs and reduce fertility. Some pass directly into the baby’s bloodstream across the mother’s placenta, which can cause health problems for the baby.
For both men and women, taking cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana can reduce the chance of having a baby. Taken over a long period of time, recreational drugs can cause permanent problems with the reproductive system and infertility.
How drugs affect sperm
Taking anabolic steroids for body building or competitive sports causes testes to shrink and stops the production of sperm. Andrology Australia’s Your Sperm and how to look after them booklet warns that steroids = sterile!
If you’re planning to be a parent, be aware that it generally takes about two years for sperm to return to normal after stopping steroids.
Men’s fertility can also be harmed by other drugs like marijuana, cocaine and heroin as they reduce testosterone levels, and sex drive (libido). There is some proof that marijuana can lower a man’s sperm count, decrease the amount of semen and reduce sperm motility (ability to ‘swim’), which reduces the chances of fertilising an egg.
What you can do
It’s a good idea for women and men to have a general health check-up a few months before they start trying for a baby.
Your doctor will:
- assess whether any drugs or medications, including supplements, vitamins and minerals you’re taking might be harmful before or during pregnancy
- give you advice on how best to manage any chronic health condition before and during pregnancy
- suggest safe options, if you take medication for a health condition, such as asthma
- advise you on how to stop taking your regular medication safely, if you need to.
Some supplements, vitamins, minerals, and herbal medicines are safe to take while trying to get pregnant and during pregnancy, and others are not. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking anything new.