Can I Take Mucinex While Pregnant?

Pregnant woman holding a tissue to her nose

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Pregnancy often comes with its own set of discomforts, like nausea, headaches, or fatigue. It can be hard to deal with a stuffy nose or a hacking cough on top of your pregnancy side effects.

However, if you're expecting, you can't always take the same medicines you normally count on to get you feeling back to your old self. If you are suffering from congestion and a productive cough, you may wonder whether Mucinex is safe for you to take.

Turns out it's best to leave the Mucinex in the medecine cabinet until after you give birth. At least for now, we don't know enough about how this medication might affect an unborn baby.

What Is Mucinex?

Mucinex (guaifenesin) is over-the-counter cough medicine. It works by thinning out mucus, making it easier to clear from the nasal passages, throat, and lungs. "It loosens and thins mucous in
the lungs, enabling coughing up the mucous and helping to clear airways, [which makes] breathing easier," says Alan Lindemann, MD, an obstetrician and maternal mortality expert.

If you have a hacking cough, however, you should use another type of medicine. "Mucinex is used for a cough that is productive of mucus, not used for a dry cough," explains Megan Gray, MD, an OBGYN with Orlando Health Physician Associates.

Some types of Mucinex also include dextromethorphan, a cough medicine that suppresses your brain's cough reflex.

Is It Safe to Take Mucinex During Pregnancy?

Not enough research has been done to determine whether Mucinex is safe to take while pregnant. Some studies indicate that Mucinex may be dangerous to take during the first trimester. Since we don't know enough about how Mucinex might affect a developing fetus during the latter two trimesters, abstaining from this medicine is the safest choice.

"It is not yet known if Mucinex is safe to use in pregnancy," says Dr. Lindemann. "Therefore, I recommend not using it, especially during the first trimester. In any case, ask your doctor or midwife before taking any form of Mucinex."

Mucinex is considered a category C pregnancy drug by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), which means that it should be avoided due to insufficient research studies. In rare cases, your health care provider may decide that the benefits of Mucinex outweigh the risks of taking it during pregnancy, and allow you to take it during the second and third trimesters.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about taking Mucinex while pregnant.

What If I Take Mucinex Before Realizing I'm Pregnant?

Try not to worry if you took Mucinex before you realized you were pregnant. You didn't know you were pregnant, so it's not your fault. Just stop taking it and inform a healthcare provider, advises Dr. Lindemann.

Rest assured that if you took a pregnancy test around the time of your missed period, it's unlikely that Mucinex had any effect at all on your unborn baby. The umbilical cord, which transports substances you ingest to your baby, doesn't begin to form until five weeks gestation, and you are about four weeks along if around the time of your missed period.

Risks of Mucinex While Pregnant

There are not enough research studies done on Mucinex during pregnancy to say for sure what the risks are. Because of the lack of information available to us, there may be risks that no one knows about yet.

Some studies found a possible link between Mucinex in the first trimester and birth defects, but the study is not considered comprehensive enough to say for sure whether Mucinex causes birth defects.

When Can I Resume Taking Mucinex?

It is safe to start taking Mucinex again after you give birth. Once the umbilical cord is cut you are no longer sharing a bloodline with your baby. If you are breastfeeding, however, you may want to continue to hold off on taking Mucinex until after your baby is weaned or at least getting most of their nutrition from other sources.

Just as with pregnancy, there is limited data on the use of Mucinex in breastfeeding. Talk with a healthcare provider about whether you can take this medicine or whether you should stick to safer options. "In general, this medication should be used only if necessary and for the shortest duration and lowest dose necessary to manage symptoms," explains Dr. Gray.

Pregnancy Safe Alternatives

If you suffer from a productive cough while you are pregnant, it is best to leave the Mucinex on the shelf. However, there are a few pregnancy-safe ways to combat coughs when you have a baby on the way.

Dextromethorphan

Dextromethorphan is an over-the-counter cough medicine that is generally considered safe to use during pregnancy. "This medication suppresses a cough by affecting signals in the brain that trigger a cough," explains Dr. Gray.

Safety Note

Always check the ingredients when selecting a cough medicine while pregnant. Brand names often make several formulas, some of which include safe ingredients and some which need to be avoided. Some medicines contain both dextromethorphan and guaifenesin, and would not be considered OK during pregnancy.

Honey

Honey is proven to be an effective cough suppressant, and it is even more effective than dextromethorphan. Eat it by the spoonful, spread it on toast, or mix it up into warm water or tea to find relief.

Warm Water

Mucinex works by thinning mucus so it becomes easier to clear it from the nasal passages. Warm water has a similar effect. Not only is water completely fine during pregnancy, but staying hydrated is also beneficial and important when you have a baby on the way.

When trying to find relief from a cough using warm water, drink it continually until your cough is completely gone. To maximize effectiveness, drink hot water along with taking dextromethorphan or eating honey.

A Word From Verywell

Mucinex is not considered safe to take while pregnant because not enough research has been done on how it could affect a developing fetus. Minimal research indicates that taking Mucinex in the first trimester of pregnancy might be linked to birth defects. You should abstain from taking Mucinex in the first trimester.

In the majority of cases, Mucinex should be avoided throughout the entire pregnancy. In rare cases, the benefits may outweigh the risks. Always consult a healthcare provider if you have any questions about taking Mucinex while pregnant.

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10 Sources
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