Can You Take Phenylephrine When Pregnant? Its Side Effects

Phenylephrine is a common ingredient found in many over-the-counter (OTC) cold and sinus medications that is used as a decongestant. During pregnancy, women may be reluctant to take any OTC medications due to the potential risks to their unborn baby. The purpose of this blog post is to provide a comprehensive overview of what is known about the safety of phenylephrine during the third trimester of pregnancy.
The potential health effects of phenylephrine on an unborn baby are a valid concern for pregnant women. While there are some studies that suggest limited safety concerns, these studies are relatively limited and the exact effects of phenylephrine on an unborn baby are still largely unknown. Therefore, it is important that women understand the potential risks associated with taking phenylephrine during the third trimester of pregnancy. In this blog post, we will provide a comprehensive overview of the available evidence on phenylephrine during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy,

But heres the thing–my friend had a terrible cold. Additionally, if you do not get relief from a bad cold, sinus infections are more likely to develop. The midwife advised my friend to take something because she didn’t want her to end up needing antibiotics. (She actually recommended pseudeophedrine. You must now purchase that one at the pharmacy counter. In spite of its decreased use, phenylephrine is becoming more widespread because it can be found in over-the-counter medications. ).

Although there is little information on the safety of phenylephrine during pregnancy, the data that is currently available indicates that there are few risks for expectant mothers when taking this drug. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States has classified the medication as Category C, meaning there have been some reports of birth defects in animals and there have only been a few human studies. After the first trimester, which is typically the danger period for fetal exposure and birth defects, the benefits of taking the medication may outweigh the risks. The use of phenylephrine during pregnancy may be contraindicated due to any unique risks, which patients with questions or concerns are welcome to discuss with a doctor or other qualified medical professional.

Before resorting to decongestants like phenylephrine during pregnancy, patients with severe congestion have a variety of options to treat it. Dairy products and other foods that can increase mucus production and make congestion more uncomfortable may be beneficial for some women. Saline rinses of the nose can be helpful as well. If these precautions are successful, a doctor might advise phenylephrine because the advantages outweigh the risks.

First-trimester phenylephrine exposure increases the risk of gastroschisis in fetuses slightly compared to the general population. If the mother smokes, this risk can increase. The risks are connected to phenylephrine’s vasoconstriction, which can reduce the amount of blood that reaches the fetus. When using this medication for extended periods of time, women are also slightly more at risk of developing hypertension during pregnancy.

Patients can use this medication as a decongestant to feel more comfortable when they have a cough or a cold. Studies show that it doesn’t raise the risk of miscarriage. Pregnancy-related birth defects linked to phenylephrine appear to be uncommon, but there is a slight increased risk of a condition called gastroschisis, a defect of the abdominal wall. The defect may result in the abdomen’s contents protruding, and surgical correction is necessary.

What Happens If You Take Too Much Phenylephrine?

Prolonged use or overdosing can worsen or may cause the return of your nasal decongestant (6).

Additionally, a phenylephrine overdose may result in an increase in blood pressure and reflex bradycardia. Additionally, it may cause symptoms like agitation, headache, nausea, and vomiting (7). Related:

OTIS/MotherToBaby encourages inclusive and person-centered language. Although mothers are still mentioned in our name, we are updating our resources to use more inclusive language. When the terms “mother” or “maternal” are used, they refer to a pregnant person. When the terms “father” or “paternal” are used, it refers to a sperm donor.

Taking phenylephrine during the first trimester of pregnancy did not increase the risk of birth defects, according to studies involving more than 1,500 participants. In one study, 1,249 pregnant women who took phenylephrine in the first trimester were examined. There was a slight increase in the likelihood of having minor eye or ear differences that are not birth defects. Studies on other drugs with a similar mechanism of action (reduce blood vessel size) have raised concerns about a slight increase in the risk of birth defects.

According to the studies examined, it is unknown if phenylephrine can result in additional pregnancy-related issues, such as preterm delivery (birth before week 37) or low birth weight (weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces [2500 grams] at birth). There are theoretical worries that using phenylephrine could decrease blood flow through the placenta, an organ that develops during pregnancy to supply the developing baby with food and oxygen. This is because phenylephrine can make blood vessels smaller (constrict).

No research has been done to determine whether phenylephrine could impact fertility or raise the baseline risk of birth defects. In general, fathers’ or sperm donors’ exposures are unlikely to raise pregnancy risks. Please visit the MotherToBaby fact sheet Paternal Exposures at for more details. org/fact-sheets/paternal-exposures-pregnancy/.

When a person learns she is pregnant, they may consider altering how they take their medication or stopping it altogether. Before making any changes to the way you take this medication, you should consult your healthcare providers. If you use a decongestant, it might be best to pick one with just one active ingredient rather than one with several. This prevents the pregnancy from being exposed to additional drugs that might not be necessary. Your healthcare professionals can discuss with you the advantages of treating your condition and the dangers of leaving an illness untreated while pregnant.


Is it safe to take phenylephrine while pregnant?

Based on the studies reviewed, it is not known if phenylephrine increases the chance for birth defects above the background risk. Studies involving more than 1,500 people who were pregnant and took phenylephrine in the first trimester did not show an increased chance for birth defects.

Can I take decongestant in third trimester?

Over-the-counter decongestants are, for the most part, safe during pregnancy, physicians advise. Most decongestants do not contain enough medication to cause problems with baby, especially if used for short periods.

What can I take for a cold while pregnant in third trimester?

Pregnancy-Safe Cold & Flu Medication
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Safe during the entire pregnancy. Take only as needed. …
  • Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) Safe in the second and third trimester. …
  • Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton) Safe during pregnancy. …
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) Safe throughout pregnancy.

When should phenylephrine be avoided?

do not take phenylephrine if you are taking a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor, such as isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam, Zelapar), and tranylcypromine (Parnate), or if you have stopped taking one of these medications within the past 2 weeks.

Medication for Cold during Pregnancy

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