Living in the era of electronic media, we have started acquiring lots of information. This is great, no doubt. But people often forget the difference between information and knowledge! Since we are talking about drugs and medicines here, let us take the same example. When you are suffering from a simple cold, instead of a bit of patience, tolerance, some rest and a warm soup, we rely on pills without a prescription. For every small problem, we have starting popping over-the-counter pills. Pills are to be taken when you don’t have an option or when your body cannot fight the infection on its own. Our body on its own has a great immune system. It will serve you right. These pills do give you a temporary relief but there are long-term side effects. And during pregnancy, you have to be more alert than ever.
Placenta is the connection as well as barrier between mother and foetus, but it is not a very strict barrier. It allows most of the drugs to pass to the baby. Other than this, during pregnancy, the physiology and metabolism of your body change drastically. Thus pills which did not produce any side effects previously, now can be proven very dangerous for you as well as your baby.
Pseudoephedrine During Pregnancy: Precautions and Effects
General precautions to be taken before consuming any drug during pregnancy
- Consult your doctor before taking any drug.
- Do not self-prescribe drugs.
- The same drug of a different brand may have different effects, before changing the brand of a prescribed drug, consult your doctor.
- Do not take any unnecessary drugs.
- Inform your doctor about any drug takes during pregnancy.
Stages at which drugs affect the baby
Fertilization and implantation
It affects in first 18 days of pregnancy. Some drugs interfere with the fertilization and implantation of the embryo. Due to which there is a failure of pregnancy. This often goes unnoticed.
Organogenesis means the formation of organs. It usually takes place between 18-55 days. Drugs taken during this period may lead to failure in organ formation or may cause any deformity in the organ.
Growth and developmental abnormality–
after 56 days of pregnancy, drugs hamper the growth and development of the baby.
What is pseudoephedrine?
Our body is a perfect example of division of labour. Various systems run various functions of our body. One such system is “Autonomic nervous system”. It controls most of involuntary work of our body. To run this system there are two types of neurons, which act in opposite way. For example, one increases blood pressure, other decreases. So when our body wants to increase our blood pressure, those neurons are activated. They are known as “sympathetic neurons” and “parasympathetic neurons”. Pseudoephedrine acts on sympathetic neurons and activates them. It belongs to the adrenalin family. Thus if our body lacks in any sympathetic action, we can rectify it.
What are its uses?
Pseudoephedrine is widely used and is available easily as an over the counter drug. It is commonly used as nasal decongestant. Yes, it is the tablet you take normally for cold. But as discussed earlier, it not only acts to reduce your cold, it also acts on various other organs producing side effects.
How does it act as nasal decongestant?
Pseudoephedrine is a vasoconstrictor, i.e. it constricts our blood vessels. Due to which, the blood supply is reduced and the cells which produce mucous, stop producing it, Thus decongesting our nose. It is not to be used on regular basis, because they can impair the function of our mucous cells, making us vulnerable for other pathogens. Along with this some other side effects of pseudoephedrine during pregnancy are as below-
Adverse effects of pseudoephedrine
Researchers have found the use of pseudoephedrine in first 13 weeks of pregnancy is connected to increased birth defects. Like gasterochisis. Gasterocisis is a birth defect in which there is a formation of hole beside the belly button of the baby, through which the intestine lie outside the baby’s body. Sometimes the hole can be largely due to which even organ like liver, stomach may lie outside the baby.
Small intestinal atresia
normally our intestines are connected to the wall of our abdomen internally, so that they do not fall off and remain in place. In birth defect due to pseudoephedrine, there may be no connection of the small intestine and the wall, causing the small intestine to round about itself and cause atrasia i.e. obstruction. Symptoms seen in the baby can be yellow vomiting, no passage of stools, pain and tightness in abdomen.
Relaxation of uterine muscles
During delivery the uterine muscles should contract to push the baby out. But pseudoephedrine causes the relaxation of muscles, due to which labour can be delayed. In some cases assisted delivery or c-section has to be performed.
during pregnancy, there is a lot of stress on body. Every aspect of your body has changed. Due to which you are already more prone to hypertension. Pseudoephedrine constricts the blood vessels, which increases the blood pressure and adding to the cause of hypertension in pregnancy.
Contraction of blood vessels
pseudoephedrine causes contraction of blood vessels, higher doses or regular use in pregnancy may lead to contraction of vessels of placenta also. Due to which, the blood flow to the foetus decreases. Resulting in retardation in growth and development of foetus.
Central nervous system stimulation
pseudoephedrine is also responsible for stimulation of central nervous system. Due to which mother may suffer from insomnia, hallucinations or tremors. Sometimes the mother may get an anxiety attack, feeling of irritation and uneasiness.
As seen earlier, pseudoephedrine causes relaxation of uterine muscles; similarly, it also causes relaxation of bladder muscles. Since voiding of urine also needs contraction of muscles, there is urinary retention. It may cause many complications during pregnancy.
Increase risk of gestational diabetes mellitus
Regular use of pseudoephedrine causes increase in glucose level in blood. It acts on liver to break stored glycogen into glucose, increasing blood sugar level. Normally this action requires very high dose. But during pregnancy, our metabolism is disturbed, pseudoephedrine just adds to risk.
pseudoephedrine sometimes may cause nausea and vomiting. But as we know already a pregnant woman is nauseous. By taking this, she just feels more uncomfortable. Dose has to be kept as low as possible.
Loss of appetite
pseudoephedrine acts on central nervous system and acts as anorectic agent in a higher dose. Anorectic means the suppressor of appetite. Due to which, mother may be devoid of many nutrient and may cause hindrance in the growth of the baby.
As we know, pseudoephedrine causes contraction of blood vessels. If blood vessels of brain are contracted, then it may lead to a migraine like headache.
These were some side effects of pseudoephedrine. It should be completely avoided in first 13 weeks of pregnancy, after which it can be taken if no other option is available. But the main care to be taken during pregnancy is, do not stress yourself. Stress just adds up to all the risks and complications. We know that saying is very simple, but actually being a mother is very difficult. But we hope that we make your journey a bit simpler.
Hope this article was of help to you! Please share your comments/queries/tips with us and help us create a world full of Happy, Healthy and Empowered Women!!