Is It Safe to Take Phenylephrine During Pregnancy?

Should You Take Phenylephrine While Pregnant

Any kind of chemical that an expecting mother consumes during her pregnancy may have an impact on the life growing inside her. Medicines and even certain foods have chemicals in them. It is, therefore, very important that you know what you are consuming during pregnancy, even for minor conditions like a cold or a congested nose.

In this article, we talk about phenylephrine, a component found in several over-the-counter medicines. Is it okay to consume phenylephrine in pregnancy? Will there be any adverse or long-term ill effects on the mother or the child? These are all legitimate questions, but first, to answer them, we must dig more into what it is and find out the relationship between phenylephrine and pregnancy.

What Is Phenylephrine?

Phenylephrine is a drug that is used by medical professionals as a decongestant in order to help with bodily functions, such as dilating pupils, relieving haemorrhoids, nasal congestion, sinuses or even hay fever. This chemical, however, is found in multiple over-the-counter drugs. It is also used to keep hypotension under control that occur during c-section delivery.

You might be consuming phenylephrine while pregnant unknowingly because it provides relief. You might be practising caution in case you are pregnant with respect to the medication that you take. But what should you do in case you catch a cold or feel like your sinuses are congested? Is it okay to take phenylephrine? Will it lead to any harm? Read on for more information.

Is Phenylephrine Safe During Pregnancy?

Phenylephrine is not safe for consumption by pregnant women, especially in the first trimester of their pregnancy. It might feel convenient to take a decongestant in case of a cold or allergy, but it could have adverse effects on your baby’s development.

The drug works by narrowing blood vessels, which helps reduce the amount of nasal secretion, which, in turn, helps open up the air passages. Unfortunately, this narrowing of blood vessels is not just restricted to the nasal area because the drug does the same in the uterus. Narrowing blood vessels in the uterus could lead to your foetus receiving reduced blood flow and, therefore, less oxygen. This can lead to birth defects in your baby, which any parent would like to avoid. It is also associated with other effects, including vascular disruption, such as small intestinal atresia, gastroschisis, and hemifacial microsomia. On the contrary, there are several case-control studies that did not have any association with increased malformation risks when oral decongestants were used during pregnancy or an increased chance for birth defects when taken in the first trimester of pregnancy. The effect of phenylephrine, when administered intranasally, carries less risk than when given systemically.

Therefore, before consuming decongestant OTCs, it is best to consult your obstetrician or gynaecologist and enquire about the safety and efficacy of this drug. 

Phenylephrine Pregnancy Category

Phenylephrine is alright under normal circumstances because it helps many people across the world from the discomfort caused by different types of congestion. It is a Category C medicine, which means that it has been tried and tested on animals that have been pregnant and has been shown to not have any adverse effects on the fetus. However, there have been no controlled tests conducted on humans, so there is no hard evidence, and at this point, it is conjecture. This means that the consensus that has been arrived at is only by following the route of the chemical and how it affects the body.

Can Phenylephrine Be Used as a Vasopressor During Pregnancy?

Intravenous phenylephrine is classified as a Pregnancy Category C drug by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There are little to no adequate studies that prove the efficacy and safety of the Intravenous phenylephrine drug in pregnant women. Phenylephrine (Vazculep) used for treating hypotension should only be prescribed by doctors in special circumstances. Hence, doctors would only prescribe this drug only if the potential benefits will outweigh the risks.

Safe Substitutes Pregnant Women Can Use Instead of Phenylephrine

Congestion is a common issue and has been present since the dawn of mankind. There are many alternative ways that will help you heal in case you feel congested in your nasal or chest area. Medicines are available just to make sure that the symptoms die out a lot quicker than they would naturally so that you can get back to your normal life. For the most part, the symptoms will disappear on their own in a few days, but in order to accelerate the healing process, you can try these non-medicinal ways to help your body recover.

  • Drink lots of fluids to ensure that the congestion gets washed away. With a cold or congestion, staying hydrated is a definite way to accelerate recovery.
  • Make sure to sleep and rest a lot. While the body is asleep or relaxing, it will provide itself with all the energy needed to fight off the viruses.
  • Inhale steam or take hot showers. The steam usually helps clear up the nasal passage and fight off the congestion.
  • Menthol rubs help fight off colds and throat issues. Rubbing some around your nose and temple area helps ward off the cold viruses.

When to See a Doctor?

Be sure to always consult your doctor before starting any medication. The doctor should be aware of all your health issues, and he/she could also provide you with an alternative without using harmful chemicals. In case you have a cold or some sort of congestion, make sure you reach out to the doctor right away in case it is accompanied by any of the following:

We strongly discourage the consumption of any over-the-counter medication during pregnancy, including phenylephrine. However, in case you want to buy medication from the pharmacy, make sure you read the labels carefully to know the composition of the drug so that you can make an informed decision. Of course, consulting your doctor in advance is also recommended to know which chemical compounds you should avoid during pregnancy for the safety of your baby. In case you accidentally took phenylephrine in pregnancy, and you are feeling unwell, it is best to get in touch with your doctor.


1. How Much Phenylephrine Should I Take While Pregnant?

Since phenylephrine and pregnancy are not assumed to go well, it is best to avoid the use of phenylephrine during pregnancy 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimesters. However, if the benefits seem to outweigh the risks, the doctor may prescribe the drug.

2. Can Phenylephrine Causes Anxiety And Make Sleepy While Pregnant?

If combined with other medications, phenylephrine can trigger anxiety, restlessness, and fear in some people. Therefore, it is best to avoid taking OTC medicines that contain phenylephrine combined with other drugs and only consult the doctor for your symptoms during pregnancy.

3. Does Phenylephrine Increase Heart Rate in Pregnancy?

Phenylephrine can potentially increase heart rate and disturb heart rhythms abnormally. This could also make you feel your own heartbeat in rare cases. People with weak heart, heart and blood pressure issues should avoid taking this without a doctor’s consultation.

A common cold is nothing to worry about since it is not life-threatening. However, it can definitely be a nuisance, especially if you are pregnant. Be careful with the medication you consume while your baby is growing inside you. In order to keep yourself and your baby safe, make sure you try all non-medical alternatives for simple ailments or else consult a medical professional to get the right kind of advice. Do not self-medicate under any circumstance, as pregnancy is sort of a walk on a fine line to make sure your baby is safe and grows up to be healthy and strong.


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Taking Loratadine in Pregnancy
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Ruchelle has a vast experience working with clients in hospitality, health and wellness, entertainment, real estate, and retail. She aims to utilise her learnings to deliver quality content which will in turn help drive sales and customer engagement.