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    An Expecting Mother's Guide to Choosing a Safe Cough Syrup in Pregnancy

    Illnesses & Infections

    An Expecting Mother's Guide to Choosing a Safe Cough Syrup in Pregnancy

    Updated on 3 November 2023

    Medically Reviewed by

    Dr. Shruti Tanwar

    C-section & gynae problems - MBBS| MS (OBS & Gynae)

    View Profile

    An average person suffers two to three throat infections or colds annually, and pregnant women are no different. In fact, women are more likely to become ill during pregnancy. Consequently, many women end up looking for a safe cough syrup in pregnancy and which ones to avoid. It all depends on the ingredients of the cough syrup. Pregnant women should pay special attention to the ingredients in any medications they consume.

    Several studies have been conducted in recent years on the use of medicine in pregnant women as it affects fetal development. However, a pregnant woman must weigh the benefits and risks of taking a cough syrup in pregnancy and only consider taking them with the confirmation of a doctor.

    Best Cough Syrup During Pregnancy in India

    Here is a list of safe cough syrups for pregnant women that have been researched or used often in pregnancy:

    1. Guaifenesin

    A guaifenesin-containing syrup is helpful in cough expectoration. It maximizes moisture in the breathing pipes and enhances natural phlegm expulsion. Guaifenesin syrup is safe when consumed at an ideal over-the-counter (OTC) dosage. Always check the instructions and avoid Guaifenesin products that contain propylene glycol or alcohol, which can be hazardous to the fetus.

    2. Pseudoephedrine

    Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant. Syrups containing pseudoephedrine act on the throat, sinuses, and nose by constricting the distended blood vessels. This action can ameliorate throat and sinus during pregnancy. However, due to the increased risk of complications, pseudoephedrine should be avoided during the first trimester of pregnancy in mothers having high blood pressure.

    3. Chlorpheniramine

    When it comes to finding a cough syrup for pregnant women that's safe and also effective, any chlorpheniramine-containing cough syrup is a decongestant that you can consume without worry. In addition, it alleviates the symptoms of allergies and colds during pregnancy in the body.

    4. Dextromethorphan

    Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant that is common in over-the-counter pregnancy safe cough syrup. Several randomized trials on the use of dextromethorphan during pregnancy have found no link between this medication and an increased risk of birth complications.

    5. Diphenhydramine

    Diphenhydramine belongs to the class of antihistamine syrups. It reduces congestion and is considered a harmless cough syrup during pregnancy. It works by inhibiting the activity of histamine, a component in the body that causes allergic symptoms.

    You may also like: Cetirizine in Pregnancy: Meaning, Risks & Side Effects

    Cough Syrups to Avoid During Pregnancy

    Now, that you know safe cough syrups in pregnancy, let us also find out which cough syrups to avoid. Your doctor may also suggest skipping a cough syrup in pregnancy during specific trimesters, as they might cause pregnancy complications or congenital disabilities.

    1. Phenylephrine

    Syrups that contain phenylephrine are not advisable till the end of the first trimester. Following the first trimester, it may be safe to use this cough syrup for pregnant women on a limited basis. It may reduce circulation to the placenta and lead to high blood pressure in the expectant mother.

    2. Codeine

    Consuming codeine-containing cough syrup is not considered safe. Some studies have found that codeine intake in early pregnancy may be associated with spina bifida (spinal cord defect) and heart defects in the baby.

    3. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

    This class of drugs consists of ibuprofen and naproxen. If the pregnancy has been for 20 weeks or more, it is advisable to avoid NSAID-containing cough syrups. After the second trimester, NSAIDs can reduce the fluid in the abdomen that safeguards the fetus (amniotic fluid). It can affect the growth of the lungs, kidneys, and other organs in the fetus. NSAIDs can harm the baby's heart development if taken during the third trimester of pregnancy.

    4. Corticosteroids

    A syrup containing certain corticosteroids such as triamcinolone isn't considered a safe cough syrup during pregnancy. According to research, this drug can lead to congenital disabilities. These defects primarily occur in the nasopharynx. In addition, it has been shown to raise the risk of severe respiratory defects when given during pregnancy.

    5. Ethanol-containing syrup

    Some medications are available as ethanol-containing syrups. Ethanol is a type of alcohol. Consuming alcohol during pregnancy can have negative consequences such as miscarriage and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (physical or intellectual problems) in the child. If you're looking for a cough syrup in pregnancy, don't forget to check the label to ensure it's alcohol-free.

    6. Natural sugar-containing syrup

    Sweeteners are useful to flavor syrups. However, during pregnancy, these sweeteners may affect the blood sugar levels in women. If necessary, choose "sugar-free" syrups. These usually include sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and artificial sweeteners such as sucralose. Care should be taken if a woman has gestational diabetes. Consuming as little of such sugar-free syrups as feasible if you are using a lot of artificial sweeteners while pregnant can cause complications.

    Tips for Choosing a Safe Cough Syrup in Pregnancy

    Choosing an effective and harmless cough syrup is important to ensure the well-being of both the mother and the developing baby. Here are five tips to consider when selecting a cough syrup:

    1. Consult with your healthcare provider

    Always consult your healthcare provider before taking any medication during pregnancy. They can provide personalized advice based on your specific medical history, current condition, and stage of pregnancy.

    2. Look for cough syrups labeled "pregnancy-safe"

    Some cough syrups are specifically formulated and labeled as safe for use during pregnancy. These products often contain ingredients that are considered safe for pregnant women, such as guaifenesin or dextromethorphan.

    3. Avoid certain ingredients

    While some ingredients are generally considered safe, others should be avoided during pregnancy. For example, cough syrups containing alcohol, pseudoephedrine, or codeine should be avoided, as they may have potential risks for the developing baby.

    4. Read the labels carefully

    Carefully read the labels of cough syrups to identify any potential allergens or ingredients that you should avoid. Look for clear instructions on dosage and frequency to ensure you take the medication correctly.

    5. Seek natural remedies

    In some cases, natural remedies may be a safer option during pregnancy. Honey mixed with warm water or herbal teas can help soothe a cough. However, it's important to consult your healthcare provider before using any natural remedies to ensure they are safe for you.

    Remember, every pregnancy is unique, and what may be safe for one woman may not be safe for another. Always prioritize the guidance of your healthcare provider when choosing a cough syrup or any other medication during pregnancy.


    In conclusion, reading the labels and ingredients can help you choose a safe cough syrup in pregnancy. Most cough syrups comprise two or more medicines to treat multiple symptoms, increasing the likelihood that they comprise a medicine that is unsafe to use in pregnant women. To be safe, check labels and select an alternative with the fewest active components. It is generally best to select the individual syrup a woman requires during a pregnancy instead of a multi-symptom syrup. If you require medicine, find the lowest potential dosages for the shortest time.


    1. Taking Medicine During Pregnancy. (2018). Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health

    2. Cao Y, Rhoads A, Burns T, Carnahan RM, Conway KM, Werler MM, Mitchell A, Romitti P. (2021). Maternal use of cough medications during early pregnancy and selected birth defects: a US multisite, case–control study. NCBI


    An Expecting Mother's Guide to Choosing a Safe Cough Syrup in Pregnancy in Tamil, An Expecting Mother's Guide to Choosing a Safe Cough Syrup in Pregnancy in Telugu, An Expecting Mother's Guide to Choosing a Safe Cough Syrup in Pregnancy in Bengali

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    Medically Reviewed by

    Dr. Shruti Tanwar

    C-section & gynae problems - MBBS| MS (OBS & Gynae)

    View Profile

    Written by

    Mittali Khurana

    Mittali is a content writer by profession. She is a dynamic writer with 04+ years of experience in content writing for E-commerce, Parenting App & Websites, SEO.

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