Can You Take Mucinex While Pregnant?

Is Mucinex Safe During Pregnancy? Everything Expectant Mothers Need to Know About the Popular OTC Cough and Cold Medicine

From a cup of coffee to a box of hair dye, pregnant women tend to second-guess everything they might put in, on or even close to their body. The instinct to protect your growing baby can cause a pregnant woman a lot of confusion, but this caution is all for a good reason, especially when it comes to taking over-the-counter medications such as Mucinex. The popular cough and cold medicine might be your usual go-to when you need to relieve congestion, sinus pressure, a sore throat or other symptoms, but think twice about taking Mucinex (in any version) during pregnancy, especially if you're still in your first trimester.

General Advice About Taking Mucinex During Pregnancy

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No drug can be considered 100 percent safe during pregnancy, and as a general rule, you should always consult with your doctor before taking any OTC medications. If your doctor gives you the go-ahead to take Mucinex—which they are only likely to do after you're out of your first trimester—you still should educate yourself about the medicine and thoughtfully weigh its potential risks against your need for relief of your symptoms. Doctors agree that pregnant women should take medications only when symptoms are severe and non-medicinal alternatives are not enough, and then only for a limited amount of time.

Is Mucinex Safe to Take During Pregnancy?

Mucinex, Mucinex D and Mucinex DM are advertised to treat the following cough and cold symptoms: chest congestion, cough, sinus pressure, stuffy nose, runny nose, sore throat, fever, headache and sneezing. Three active ingredients present in the three types of Mucinex help to relieve those symptoms: Guaifenesin, an expectorant; Dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant; and Pseudoephedrine, a decongestant. All three of these drugs have been graded Class C under the FDA's Pregnancy Risk Category system.

Class C drugs are those for which no adequate and well-controlled studies have been conducted, leaving the medical establishment unable to thoroughly assess their risk. It does not mean that these drugs are harmful, only that, due to a lack of scientific study, it's impossible to rule out the potential for harm. According to the FDA, "potential benefits (of Class C drugs) may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks."

The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that pregnant women avoid taking Class C medicines, specifically those present in Mucinex, during their first trimester. During the second and third trimester, they say that Mucinex can generally be considered safe, but for pregnant women to use it only when they feel it's absolutely necessary.

When to Consult Your Doctor

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Pregnant women should always consult a medical professional before taking any over-the-counter medications, including Mucinex. Beyond simply asking about the safety of Mucinex, a phone call with your doctor gives you the chance to discuss your symptoms, their severity and how long you've been unwell. Your doctor might recommend alternative medications or treatments that she feels would be more beneficial. Additionally, she can assess whether your symptoms are severe enough to warrant an in-person appointment or more urgent medical attention. Even if you choose not to consult your doctor about a cough or cold, you certainly should do so if you don't feel better within a week, have a fever over 102 degrees F or experience chest pain.

Mucinex Advice and Warnings

If you do choose to take Mucinex after consulting a health care professional, it's essential to read and follow the instructions on the box of the particular Mucinex product you're taking. There are more than 30 different Mucinex products, including tablets, liquids and liquid gel caplets, and safe dosages vary considerably from one product to the next. Don't rely on remembering how many Mucinex pills you've taken in the past, as you might have purchased a different formula with different dosage recommendations. If you're taking a liquid form of Mucinex, use the dosage cup provided.

Know that some (but not all) types of Mucinex contain acetaminophen (Tylenol). You should not take other medicines containing acetaminophen in addition to Mucinex containing acetaminophen.

Alternatives to Mucinex

The most obvious alternative to taking Mucinex while suffering from cough and cold symptoms is simply to "tough it out," rest a lot, keep well hydrated and wait for the virus to run its course. There are, however, some non-medicinal remedies that might help. These include:

  • Saline nasal sprays for a dry, stuffy nose
  • Decongestant products such as Vicks for relieving congestion and sinus pressure
  • Herbal teas or hot water with honey and lemon to ease a sore throat
  • Throat lozenges and hard candies
  • Using a humidifier
  • Sleeping with your head propped up on extra pillows