If you or a loved one is pregnant and taking (or thinking about taking) prescription medication, one of the best ways to make sure that use of the drug will not result in a birth defect (or injury) to your baby is to understand the prescription process, and prescriptions themselves. Prescription medications are helpful and often necessary, but they can also be confusing, dangerous, and expensive. The following contains information on how to read prescriptions, how to take them, and how to respect them.
Prescriptions: The Basics
Each prescription has four parts:
- Superscription: The heading where the symbol R or Rx is located.
- Inscription: The area of the prescription that contains the names and quantities of the ingredients or drugs.
- Subscription: The directions for compounding or mixing the drug.
- Signature: Often preceded by the sign “s,” this is the portion of the prescription that gives the directions to be marked on the bottle, vial, or container.
Physicians are notorious for having illegible handwriting. While you may not worry about having to read their notes in your medical chart, you may be more worried about a pharmacist being able to read their prescriptions for you. Once you get your prescription, you may not understand all of the abbreviations and notations on the label. If you don’t, you might find the following glossary helpful:
a.c.: before meals, from the Latin “ante cibum”
ad lib: use as much as one desires, from the Latin “ad libitum”
b.i.d.: twice a day, from the Latin “bis in die”
da or daw: dispense as written.
gtt.: drops, from the Latin “guttae”
pc: after meals, from the Latin “post cibum”
p.o.: by mouth, or orally, from the Latin “per os”
p.r.n.: when necessary, or as circumstances require, from the Latin “pro re nata”
q.d.: once a day, from the Latin “quaque die”
q.i.d.: four times a day, from the Latin “quater in die”
q.h.: used where a medicine has to be taken every so-many hours, from the Latin “quaque,” meaning “every,” and “h” indicating the number of hours. For example, q.2h.: every two hours.
t.i.d.: three times a day, from the Latin “ter in die”
ut dict.: as directed, from the Latin “ut dictum”
Smarts, Safety, & Prescriptions
While prescription medications are usually beneficial, they may also be dangerous. If you abuse prescription medications or fail to take them correctly, you may have a serious adverse reaction, or the medication may cause injury to your unborn child. While your doctor is responsible for prescribing the right medication, and your pharmacist is in charge of filling the prescription, you are responsible for taking the medications and assisting your doctor and pharmacist in any way that you can. Here are some tips on how you can fulfill those responsibilities:
- Make sure that your physician is aware of your pregnancy, and knows what medications you are on, including over-the-counter medications and alternative medicines. If your physician is contemplating prescribing medications to you, he or she needs to make sure that they won’t have a dangerous reaction with any other medications you are taking.
- If possible, keep all of your medical care in the same group or practice so your physician can easily access your medical information and review your prescription medications. If you have to see other physicians or specialists, make sure that they receive your chart from your primary care physician, or ask them to speak with your primary care physician before prescribing any medications.
- Keep track of your medications by making a list of their names and the instructions for their use. This may be particularly beneficial if you are on many different types of medications for many different conditions. Keep the list in a place where you can refer to it easily.
- Only take the dosages that your doctor has approved. If you feel that any medication you are taking is not having its intended effect, call the prescribing physician. Ask if you can take more, or if you should be on a different type of medication.
- If you are having any adverse or abnormal reactions to your prescription medications, contact your physician immediately.
- If you have young children in your household, make sure that you have child-proof caps on your medicine bottles. Keep the bottles away from anyone who may not understand their use or potency.
- Never take another person’s prescription medication. Although you may feel that you have similar symptoms, or a similar condition, you can’t be certain that you won’t have an adverse reaction to their medication or that dosage.