Eye Medications During Pregnancy

My eye doctor just gave me Trimethoprim/Polymyxin eyedrops to treat my pink eye. I did not tell the doctor that I was five weeks pregnant. So, I began to worry when I got home and read the label on the eyedrops, which said pregnant women should use caution. Should I go ahead and take the eyedrops, or will they hurt my baby?

-- Nicole

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

William Trattler, MD

Dr. William Trattler is a board-certified ophthalmologist with subspecialties in refractive, corneal and cataract eye surgery. He is a... Read more

You should not go ahead and take drops for pink eye -- or any other type of eye medication -- without first informing your doctor that you are pregnant and seeking his advice.

In my practice, I am always reluctant to recommend any type of eye medication to a pregnant woman unless the drug is absolutely necessary. Although research can be done on animals to check eye medications for possible fetal toxicity, such studies generally are not performed on pregnant women, so little is known about the impact of many eye medications on human fetuses.

Normally, when drops are put in the eye, the excess medication drains from the eye into the nose via the lacrimal ducts and quickly enters the circulatory system. In this way, the medicine in eyedrops is able to travel through the blood and potentially affect a fetus. If medication is absolutely necessary, it is possible to perform a technique called punctal occlusion to reduce the risk to the fetus. In this method, after an eyedrop is instilled into the eye, a patient closes her eye and places her forefinger in the corner of the eye near the nose, blocking a duct known as the punctum. Gentle pressure is applied for three to five minutes. In this way, most of the medication in eyedrops can be blocked from reaching the circulatory system and thereby the fetus.

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