Pregnant women are frequently warned to avoid medications because they might be harmful for the fetus. But over-the-counter drugs are often perceived as safe, even during pregnancy.
A new study suggests that women should avoid oral decongestants because of a possible link to rare birth defects. Ingredients such as phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine are found in many OTC allergy, cold and sinus remedies. Researchers found an association between such drugs and heart or limb defects.
These problems are so rare that the heart defect the researchers detected occurs among only 3 babies in 10,000 births. Even tripling the risk means the condition is still extremely rare. Still, mothers-to-be would be wise to avoid decongestants during pregnancy.