Taking ibuprofen during pregnancy
One dose isn't likely to do your baby any harm, but ibuprofen (also sold under brand names such as Advil and Motrin) is generally not recommended during pregnancy, and you definitely shouldn't take it during the third trimester. Here's the scoop.
Like most drugs, ibuprofen has been assigned a "pregnancy risk category" by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Ibuprofen is considered category D in the third trimester. That means there's significant evidence that taking it in the third trimester could harm your baby. But ibuprofen doesn't fit neatly into a category during the rest of pregnancy.
This is a problem for so many drugs that the FDA is moving away from the current classification system and working on a new one. In the meantime, healthcare providers must look at all the evidence available for each drug and try to determine when the benefits of taking a drug outweigh the risks.
Ibuprofen itself hasn't been well studied during pregnancy. Instead, much of the research has looked at the effects of ibuprofen combined with other drugs in the same family (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs), such as aspirin and naproxen.
Ibuprofen isn't recommended during the third trimester for several reasons. Most important, it may cause a passage in the baby's heart to close prematurely, possibly leading to heart or lung damage or even death. Taking ibuprofen or other NSAIDs in the last few weeks of pregnancy has also been linked to low amniotic fluid levels. And there's some concern that these medications may delay or prolong labor.
The evidence isn't as clear for the rest of pregnancy. A few studies have suggested that using ibuprofen in the first trimester slightly increases the risk of having a baby with certain birth defects. However, these studies have several weaknesses.
Most of the studies looked at many medications together, not ibuprofen alone. Some didn't take into account maternal illnesses that may have contributed to the birth defects. Most of the other research on NSAIDs in pregnancy didn't find any evidence that these medications cause birth defects.
Some evidence suggests that women should avoid ibuprofen while trying to conceive. Ibuprofen reduces the body's production of prostaglandins, needed for ovulation and implantation of the embryo in the uterus. And a couple of studies indicated that using ibuprofen or other NSAIDs around the time of conception or early in pregnancy may raise the risk of miscarriage later. (Other studies didn't find evidence of this risk.)
If you've already taken a couple of doses of ibuprofen during pregnancy, don't worry – a small amount is very unlikely to cause any problems.
To be on the safe side, if you're looking for pain relief while you're pregnant, stick with acetaminophen. Acetaminophen (also sold under the brand name Tylenol) has a long history of safe use during pregnancy.
If you think you need to take ibuprofen while you're pregnant, talk with your caregiver about whether the benefits of the medication outweigh any potential risks.
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