pills, What do FDA Pregnancy Ratings Mean?
Is It Safe? Medication Being Pregnant

What do FDA Pregnancy Ratings Mean?

By Kayla Young

If you’re nursing, pregnant, or thinking about getting pregnant, there’s a good chance you’ve broken into a sweat at least once, worrying about the possible side effects an over-the-counter medication or prescription drug could have on your baby.

The good news is, the Food and Drug Administration (the American agency whose job it is to oversee the production and safety of drugs and medications) has a new(ish) and improved information system that makes it easy to look up medications and understand the impact they can have on you as a person who is pregnant, breastfeeding, or “of reproductive potential”.

It’s important to note that the information provided by the FDA can give you a pretty good idea of the risks associated with certain drugs, but they don’t provide a hard and fast “yes” or “no” on whether a drug is guaranteed to be safe. So, as always, talk to your doc before you start poppin’ bottles of Flintstone vitamins.

First things first. Depending on whether you’re making babies, growing babies, or feeding babies, the impact a drug can have is going to look different. For that reason, you’ll want to check out the FDA subsection that relates most specifically to your current situation.

As mentioned before, the three categories outlined by the FDA are:

  • Pregnancy (this includes labor and delivery)
  • Lactation
  • Males and females of reproductive potential


If you’re pregnant and wondering about drug dosing and potential risks to yourself and/or your developing baby, the first place you’ll want to look is The FDA’s Index to Drug-Specific Information.

Their site, Drugs@FDA: FDA-Approved Drugs will also let you know if the medication you need to take has been approved by the FDA. In addition to those resources, the FDA has also compiled a list of registries for different medications, with information on their noted effects during pregnancy.

Data in each registry comes from users of the drug who have shared information about its effects during their pregnancies. This is because drugs can’t ethically be tested on pregnant women – “could you swallow this pillow case of Zoloft in your third trimester and tell us what happens?”

Let’s say you take Adderall to treat ADHD and have recently become pregnant. If you’re wondering if this medication is still safe to use during your pregnancy, you can visit this List of Pregnancy Exposure Registries to look up Adderall, and click on the registry related to that specific drug.

When visiting the registry online, you will be able to find information about the effects of that medication that have been found during pregnancy, and may also have the option to submit your own information to the registry. If you’d rather talk to a person to get some information, each registry also has a phone number that you can call.

It’s important to mention that since the registries listed on this page aren’t conducted by the FDA, the FDA can’t be held responsible for any of their contents. In other words, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor to back up any information you find from the registries from the list.


As you’re probably well aware, babies who are breastfed can receive the byproducts of food, drinks, and medication taken by their parents through their milk.

Things like how much of the medication can be passed through breastmilk, and how long you should wait between taking the medication and nursing (assuming it’s still safe to use while nursing) as well as the potential effects that the medication could have on a baby when passed through milk.

To find out more about how specific medications can impact lactation, head over to the FDA’s Index to Drug-Specific Information and Drugs@FDA: FDA-Approved Drugs

Females and Males of Reproductive Potential

The FDA’s Index to Drug-Specific Information and their site, Drugs@FDA: FDA-Approved Drugs is the place to go to find information about a drug’s potential interactions with birth control, pregnancy testing and fertility.

To give you an idea of where this information could come in handy, certain medications can screw with your birth control before, during, or even after you’re finished taking them, and if you’re not in the mood for a surprise pregnancy, you’ll want to be well-versed on just what medications to steer clear of when you’re taking certain contraceptives. These sites also provide any information that’s available on a medication’s effects on fertility or pregnancy loss.

To sum up the FDA’s Drug Information System

If you want to dig a little deeper into the FDA’s new category system, you can click here.  Drugs.com also provides a breakdown on the system. Regardless of what you read, the bottom line is: talk to your doctor about the safety of any drugs you have to take while pregnant, nursing, or when you’ve got the potential to start baby-makin’ – you never know what will make rats glow this month.

Related: Heartburn During Pregnancy – medications and remedies

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