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Is It Safe to Use Chlorpheniramine in Pregnancy?

Autumn Rivers
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Chlorpheniramine is an antihistamine that is frequently taken to treat allergies and the common cold. It is typically considered safe for use during pregnancy, because it is not known to cause birth defects in humans. It is in Pregnancy Category B, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means no humans have been harmed in studies involving this medication. It can, however, lead to eye problems in premature babies when taken during the last two weeks of pregnancy. For this reason, chlorpheniramine in pregnancy is not usually recommended in the third trimester unless there are no alternatives.

Pregnancy Category B is the second safest group in the FDA's sorting system. It often means a drug has been tested on humans and no harmful effects on the fetus were discovered, though animal studies may have shown some medical issues. It also could mean that, while a drug has not yet been properly tested on humans, animal studies have shown no harmful effects. When it comes to chlorpheniramine, its status as a Category B drug means related studies yielded no birth defects in humans, which is why it is frequently suggested as a safe drug to take, even during the often precarious first trimester, which is when birth defects are often formed.

At the same time, some studies show that taking chlorpheniramine in pregnancy is not advisable in women at-risk for having a premature baby. This is because taking this medication during the last two weeks can increase the odds of a premature baby being born with retinopathy of prematurity. This is an eye problem sometimes found in premature babies; it may lead to blindness when not treated immediately, because the retina can detach. The problem can usually be avoided if women tell their doctors that they have taken chlorpheniramine in pregnancy, because early treatment can prevent long-term damage.

In general, chlorpheniramine is one of the most commonly recommended medications to take when treating allergies and the common cold during pregnancy. The drug's listing as a Pregnancy Category B drug, as opposed to the safer Category A, means pregnant women should take this medication only when necessary. For example, if their runny nose, watery eyes or other symptoms prevent them from sleeping or being able to relax, most women are advised to take chlorpheniramine in pregnancy, because anxiety and lack of sleep tend to be more harmful to the pregnancy than this drug is.

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Autumn Rivers
By Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for The Health Board, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.

Discussion Comments

By anon237638 — On Dec 30, 2011

Why be anxious and lack sleep? Just take only when needed.

By Kat919 — On Aug 12, 2011

I occasionally took chlorpheniramine and even pseudophredrine during pregnancy. (Sudafed is category C, not B, but my doc said that pregnant women had been taking it for years. In fact, my sister even had a home-birth midwife who recommended she take it when she had a cold!)

Before I got pregnant, I took a nasal-spray steroid, but I quit that when I became pregnant because it was daily, and I wanted to take something just when it was essential.

I got a lot of relief from nasal rinsing, though. That's something all people with allergies should try, but especially pregnant women, to reduce their dependency on medication. It sounds kind of painful, running salt water through your nose, but it's really not at all.

By aLFredo — On Aug 11, 2011

@tolleranza - I think that is an interesting question, but something else to think about is the range of allergies to consider. I know I can sleep pretty well if I have a cold that does not include a cough or if I have an allergy flare up that does not consist of itchy watery eyes (that just drives me crazy).

So maybe it might be pertinent to include the dosage of the chlorpheniramine to see if they changed the dosage to lesser instead of going cold turkey and trying to see how bad their allergies became.

By tolleranza — On Aug 10, 2011

@bluespirit - I know the feeling, but you are right, staying less anxious is great (just usually easier said than done)!

I had been curious about chlortrimeton and pregnancy (chlortrimeton is the name brand of chlorpheniramine) and just as you mentioned, I had read an article that was sponsored by the The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) that really had put my fears to rest, but my paranoia told me to check out a few more sites and articles.

So in both articles (this one and the one sponsored by the ACAAI) have really put me at ease as far as using chlorpheniramine during pregnancy.

Has anyone tried going without the medication to see if their allergies had changed or to see if they could live without their chlor trimeton and not be anxious or lose sleep?

By bluespirit — On Aug 10, 2011

I am fearful of just about everything in pregnancy and I am not even pregnant (just my husband and I are planning to be in the near future). The worst part is - I know better. I read and I read, so I know not *everything* can cause any sort of defect, but what I always think when I read these kind of articles is - should i risk it, even though the proven risk is tiny?

But in this article I appreciated that the author pointed out that pregnancy and allergies and whether to take medicine or not can be also be thought of in the context of the mother possibly having anxiety and lack of sleep could be more harmful to the pregnancy than this drug is! I had never thought of it that way (and it also went to show me how it important it is to stay relaxed and less anxious).

Autumn Rivers

Autumn Rivers

Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for The Health Board, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
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