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Is It Safe to Take Guaifenesin During Pregnancy?

Autumn Rivers
Updated Feb 15, 2024
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Guaifenesin is an expectorant that is often used to relieve a cough and congestion, as it tends to thin the mucus in the body. It is part of pregnancy category C, which means that it should only be taken when necessary since studies have shown it to cause some harmful effects in animal fetuses. While some doctors have claimed that it is okay for use in moderation during pregnancy, most advise women to wait until after the first trimester since the unborn baby is most susceptible to harm from medications during this time. Thus, even though some women take guaifenesin in order to increase their chances of pregnancy, it should not typically be continued once pregnancy is achieved unless the benefit outweighs the risks.

This drug often appears on lists of medications that pregnant women can take safely, but what many lists leave off are the instructions to only take it in moderation. In fact, the first step of a pregnant woman with a cough is to see a doctor for a diagnosis. Once she is sure that the cough does not indicate a serious illness, she is advised to try cough drops or home remedies to stop the problem. If this solution does not help, and the coughing and congestion interrupt sleep or daily activities, it may be considered safe to take a medication that contains guaifenesin. It should be noted, however, that one of the main issues of taking guaifenesin during pregnancy is the fact that most drugs contain more than just this element, making it important to check the other ingredients before taking the medication.

The main concerns of taking guaifenesin during pregnancy include a few defects that may occur in the unborn baby. For instance, some research shows a slightly higher chance of an inguinal hernia, which is when some of the abdominal contents protrude through the wall of the abdomen. Fortunately, not only is this typically easy to repair, but the association between this issue and guaifenesin during pregnancy is not considered a strong one according to various studies. In fact, the association between this medication and neural tube defects, which is another commonly mentioned risk, has also been found to be rather weak. Therefore, those who must take guaifenesin during pregnancy should not be overly concerned with major risks to the unborn baby, especially when it is taken occasionally, and in moderation.

Many women who have trouble conceiving opt to take guaifenesin just before ovulation. This is likely because it is known for thinning out the mucus in the chest, and it tends to work the same way for cervical mucus. Thinner is typically better in this case since fluids make it easier for sperm to travel to the cervix, increasing the chances of conception. Of course, such women are still advised to avoid taking guaifenesin during pregnancy unless it is really necessary, just to be on the safe side.

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Autumn Rivers
By Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for WiseGeek, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
Discussion Comments
By ddljohn — On Dec 07, 2013

I had a terrible cough during my pregnancy due to pregnancy and I had to take guaifenesin. My doctor said that the benefits outweigh the risks in my case. I only took it for a little over a week and I was in my second trimester, so everything turned out fine.

By stoneMason — On Dec 07, 2013

@turquoise-- You're right. Category C drugs are harmful because they pass the placenta and reach the fetus. Some women do use it to get pregnant, but they have to keep track of it and quit the medication as soon as they conceive. Taking it during the first trimester can definitely be dangerous because this is the time that the baby is most susceptible. Congenital defects occur at this time. It's also dangerous to take category C drugs while breastfeeding.

I think some doctors prescribe low doses of this medication after the first trimester. But even then, I don't think I would take it. I think it's acceptable to take something like antibiotics when there is a serious infection. But I don't think that cold medications during pregnancy, like expectorants, are all that necessary. So in my opinion, the risks are not worth the advantages. But it's best to ask a doctor.

By turquoise — On Dec 06, 2013

I know that many women take guaifenesin to improve their chances of conceiving. But what if they stay on the medication for a while after they've conceived? Unless someone is constantly doing pregnancy tests, I think it would be easy to take the medication after the embryo has formed.

Several people have recommended guaifenesin to me because I'm trying to get pregnant. But I don't want to take it because I don't want to harm the fetus by taking the medicine during pregnancy.

Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for WiseGeek, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
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