Curing myself – but protecting my baby
By nine weeks’ pregnant you’re getting closer and closer to the magical number 12, which will signify the end of your first trimester. Your baby’s rapid pace of growth continues as she heads towards becoming fully formed. In fact, she’s grown so much that she is no longer an embryo and instead she has entered the next stage of development where she becomes known as a foetus.
You and your baby have come a long way since day 1 – you’re doing well, keep going! Here, a mother shares her experience of pregnancy in week 9.
Which medicines can I safely take whilst pregnant? – One Mum’s perspective
I knew it was comparatively early on, but getting to nine weeks’ pregnant for me still felt like an achievement. I learned that my baby was no longer called an ’embryo’, but instead had developed enough to cross an unseen line and become a ‘foetus’.
This was no accidental discovery, I found out that I was pregnant when I was six weeks and fairly quickly I began suffering from morning sickness and feeling constantly tired. I felt daunted by the thought that I had potentially 34 more weeks of this to go, and then a friend suggested that I break the pregnancy up into blocks of time so I could easily chart my progress as I went and hopefully not feel like all my suffering was in vain.
I chose to divide the pregnancy into sections according to the development of the baby, rather than just numbers of weeks. These were my personal milestones and every time I reached one I treated myself to something nice, like coffee and cake, or a new book. My first milestone happened at week 9 when I learned that she was now a foetus; I found it exciting to realise that my baby had reached such a pivotal moment of development so early on in my pregnancy.
My careful research showed me that by this stage she was measuring approximately 22mm long. Her face was developing more recognisable features and her tiny webbed hands and feet had the beginnings of small ridges which would eventually become separate fingers and toes. It was very strange to think that she was wriggling away inside me and yet I wouldn’t feel her for weeks and weeks yet. All of her major organs, heart, lung, brain, etc. would continue to develop at their own pace and it was crucial to me that I was staying hydrated and eating the best quality diet that I could manage alongside the pregnancy sickness.
And then I caught flu and all my careful planning went out of the window. I was so ill that I couldn’t do anything but lie in bed, sipping at water, and I panicked about whether enough nutrients were reaching the baby. I didn’t find out until later that pregnancy naturally suppresses your immune system, making pregnant women much more susceptible to catching colds, flu and other viruses. I phoned my midwife who reassured me that even if I wasn’t eating and drinking as much the baby would be fine. She explained that a foetus takes all the nutrition it needs from the mother’s body and the mother basically ends up with what’s left. So even if I felt awful, my baby would be fine.
And I did feel awful. I’d had flu before but tackled it with a combination of over the counter drugs. But being pregnant and ill was a different story entirely. There are so many medications that are not suitable to take in pregnancy and this seemed to include every cold and flu remedy going. Two of my automatic go-to drugs, ibuprofen and aspirin, were ruled out and instead I had to rely on paracetamol. The danger is that many medications will cross the placenta and reach the baby so you have be super careful with what to take.
Of course the thalidomide scandal of the 1950s and 60s is still fresh in people’s minds and I think for me it definitely coloured my perception of the safety of medicines in pregnancy. During my research I found there was different guidance according to the situation you’re in:
- Becoming ill whilst pregnant. For the standard coughs and colds, a visit to a local pharmacist is generally enough to check which medicines are safe. More serious illnesses will warrant a visit to the GP who will advise which medicine to take.
- Becoming pregnant when suffering from a long-term illness. The ideal is that you will have spoken to your GP prior to falling pregnant so you know the official advice before you need it. However, obviously a lot of women become pregnant unknowingly and will find themselves already taking medication which may not be safe during pregnancy. I learned that it was definitely not recommended to stop taking any medicine that has been prescribed for you, but instead seek medical advice from your doctor as soon as possible.
Homeopathic medicines and ‘natural’ remedies should also be treated with caution no matter what they say on the packet or what friends etc have told you
Basically don’t assume that any medication is safe to take in pregnancy! That said, if you feel ill then there will usually be something that you can take to make yourself feel better – without harming the tiny foetus inside you.
For more information on the subject written by a clinician, read Dr Alex Viner’s article on Medication in pregnancy.