If you're pregnant, you may know to question the safety of oral medicine use during pregnancy. But you may not think about topical medicines such as eye drops as having any potential effect on your baby. Eye drops can contain steroids, histamine blockers or mast cell stabilizers that also prevent histamine release. If you suffer from red, itchy swollen eyes due to allergy during pregnancy, ask your doctor what type of allergy eye drops to use, because some types of eye drops may present risks to your baby.
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A small amount of the active ingredients in eye drops do get absorbed systemically, meaning they could have an affect on your baby, especially if you use them in large quantities. Blinking after putting the drops in can cause a small bolus of medication to enter your bloodstream, ophthalmologist Andrew G. Iwachof the University of San Francisco explains. Keeping your eyes closed for several minutes after putting them into the eye can minimize systemic absorption, Dr. Iwach recommends.
Some allergy eye drops, such as those that contain steroids, reduce inflammation. Others, such as antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers, interfere with histamine release. Histamine release initiates allergic reactions such as itching, swelling and redness in the eyes.
The United States Food and Drug Administration categorizes medications, including eye drops, according to the potential effects in pregnancy by letter designations A, B, C, D and X. Category A drugs have undergone testing during pregnancy and no ill effects have occurred; no allergy medicines fall into this category, according to the Aukland Allergy Clinic. Many allergy eye drops fall into class B or C. Cromolyn eye drops are classified as category B, meaning no harmful effects have been noted in human or animal studies, although studies have not been done in pregnant women. Some antihistamines are Category C, meaning animal studies have shown potential harm in pregnancy. Animal studies using very large doses of the medications, up to 57,000 times the normal dose according to eMedTV, have caused birth defects in animals.
Many medications have the most serious effects on fetal development during the first trimester of pregnancy. Avoidance of allergens is the safest treatment in early pregnancy, but if it's not possible, cromolyn eye drops are safe for use in all three trimesters of pregnancy, according to NetDoctor UK pharmacist Helen Marshall, who recommends avoiding antihistamine eye drops in pregnancy. Talk to your doctor before using any eye drops, including over-the-counter preparations.