Pregnancy and breastfeeding - the pharmacist can help you

Pregnancy and breastfeeding are periods when a woman needs answers and tips based on her specific situation. During these times, pharmacists become precious allies of our healthcare system.

Did you know that 50 % of pregnancies are unplanned? When an unintended pregnancy occurs, the foetus can be inadvertently exposed to substances that could affect its growth. If you are of childbearing age and even if you are not planning to become pregnant in the short term, this article might interest you.

Substances to look out for

Using medicines and natural products can have an impact on the developing foetus. Some of these products can be used while pregnant and breastfeeding while others should be banned completely. That is why women should consult a health professional before consuming drugs during pregnancy and lactation.

Consult a pharmacist

Among all the professionals that can help you quickly and effectively, your pharmacist is the drug expert. He will put his expertise at your service and guide you. Talk to your pharmacist if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Also let him know if you are breastfeeding. Above all, tell him about any change in your intentions and health condition. If your pharmacist doesn’t know about your health history, tell him about your situation. He will be able to inform you of the dangers of some substances and he will tell you what solutions are available to you

Advice to women of childbearing age

Discuss your desire to have children or not with your pharmacist. 
Revise with him the list of medicines that you take regularly or on an occasional basis: prescribed drugs, OTC drugs, natural products. If you suffer from chronic or acute diseases, also update your diagnosis.

Tell your pharmacist of your contraception and ask for advice about contraception.
He will know how to help and advise you in many cases. If you intend to stop using contraception and to become pregnant, discuss it with him.

What do you have to do before getting pregnant?

Before becoming pregnant, talk to your pharmacist. If your condition doesn’t require immediate action on his part, you can book an appointment with him. He can arrange a meeting during less busy times to check if the medications you are taking are compatible with an eventual pregnancy. He will also make sure that you take multivitamins that contain folic acid two to three months before the beginning of your pregnancy and will recommend to keep taking folic acid throughout your pregnancy and nursing, or at least 6 weeks after birth for women who don’t breastfeed. If you suffer from a chronic disease, talk to your pharmacist and to your physician before getting pregnant.

Drugs and natural products during pregnancy

If you learn that you are pregnant while taking medications, talk to your pharmacist immediately. He will check if they pose a threat to the foetus. In many cases, he will reassure you because several drugs can be used safely while you are pregnant and breastfeeding. In other cases, he will look for safe alternatives, adapted to your health and that of your baby.

Don’t stop taking multivitamins without talking to your pharmacist or to another health professional first. These vitamins are important for your foetus and for your health.

If you suffer from minor health problems during pregnancy (nausea, vomiting, colds, reflux, etc.) your pharmacist is available to advise you before you take any medication.

Bill no41

The government of Quebec has announced that the Bill no41 will make it easier to use prenatal multivitamins and medication for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. Where are we on this?

Pharmacists have been trained and prepared for the entry into force of the Bill no41. By the time you read this, the legislation will already be in place. When it is applied, the pharmacist will be allowed to prescribe prenatal vitamins and medications to treat nausea and vomiting of pregnancy without having to wait to see a doctor. In some regions of Quebec, pharmacists can already do one or the other or both, thanks to their union. Check with your pharmacist to see if you need to await the entry into force of Bill no41 or if he can already help you.

Written by Isabelle Tremblay, B.pharm MBA, consultant pharmacist.

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