Most expectant mothers are hesitant to take any over-the-counter medications that may pose harm to their developing babies. This may even include cough drops, which come in a wide variety of flavors and often include a diverse range of ingredients, from beneficial honey to harmful decongestants. For this reason, whether cough drops are harmful to take during pregnancy depends in large part on the specific type of cough drop.
Mentholated Cough Drops
Cough drops come in two forms: mentholated and non-mentholated. Mentholated cough drops numb pain in the throat. They also often contain cough suppressants in addition to the oral anesthetic. Cough drops that contain dextromethorphan and guaifenesin (an expectorant) are considered safe for pregnant women to use, according to the BabyCenter website.
Non-mentholated drops coat the throat with a soothing substance. They do not suppress coughs or numb pain in the throat. These cough drops are often made with natural ingredients such as lemon, honey or mint. Some contain a blend of herbs. If you are unsure of the specific effects of the combination of herbs on your developing baby, consult with your health professional before taking the cough drops, even if they are labeled "all natural."
Although most cough drops are considered safe for use, they often contain large amounts of sugar or, in the case of sugar-free drops, aspartame. Women who suffer from gestational diabetes should avoid consuming large amounts of sugar-laden cough drops. In addition, the consumption of aspartame in large amounts has been linked to cancer, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest website.
Coughing is often a symptom of an underlying illness such as a sinus infection or cold. Pregnant women should not treat such illnesses with any decongestant that contains pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, because these substances are known to adversely affect the flow of blood to the placenta. Instead, use natural remedies such as a humidifier for a dry cough, a spoonful of honey, or warm, decaffeinated tea.