Most healthcare providers aren’t comfortable with women taking ibuprofen or Motrin while pregnant due to the risk of miscarriage and heart defects in the fetus.
Can you take ibuprofen while pregnant? Can you take Motrin while pregnant? Both are common questions during pregnancy. The short answer is no, most healthcare providers aren’t comfortable with women taking ibuprofen or Motrin while pregnant.
The same holds true for any medication that has ibuprofen as an active ingredient. It can be especially dangerous to use ibuprofen products like Motrin during the third trimester of pregnancy. Ibuprofen is one of many nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that aren’t recommended for pregnancy. NSAIDs also include aspirin and naproxen.
How Does Ibuprofen Affect the Fetus?
If ibuprofen is taken after the 30th week of pregnancy, there is research showing it can cause a vital passageway in the heart of the baby to close. The passage needs to stay open while a baby is still in the uterus, and then it closes shortly after birth. If the heart passage closes while a woman is still pregnant, it can damage the fetus’s heart or lungs, or end in death. Even though the risk of birth defects is higher after the 30th week of pregnancy, most medical professionals recommend women avoid it altogether while they’re pregnant and use another alternative. Some will only limit it after the 30th week.
As well as the potential for the premature closing of the heart passage, using NSAIDs during the last weeks of pregnancy is also linked to low levels of amniotic fluid and high blood pressure in the lungs of a newborn. There are even some concerns that using NSAIDs late in pregnancy can delay labor. If this type of pain reliever is used within a week of delivery, it can cause increased bleeding. During the first month of pregnancy, some research shows ibuprofen can lead to an increased risk of miscarriage.
Despite the very real and significant possible effects of using ibuprofen during pregnancy, if a woman has already used it and only done so infrequently, the risk will be low. The biggest risks of using ibuprofen while pregnant stem from repeated, chronic use throughout pregnancy. If it’s something you’re concerned about, speak with your healthcare provider.
Alternatives to Taking Ibuprofen While Pregnant
Sometimes if a woman is asking, “can you take Motrin while pregnant?” or “can pregnant women take ibuprofen?” their healthcare provider will try and point them in the direction of natural alternatives. For example, for headaches, backaches or other mild forms of pain, hot or cold compresses or warm baths could be helpful. Gentle stretching may also be useful. Acupuncture or prenatal massage (performed only by a professional trained in prenatal massage) may be ways to relieve pain without the use of medicine during pregnancy. Some medical providers might suggest herbal alternatives to over-the-counter pain medications. It’s important never to use an herbal medication or supplement without medical guidance during pregnancy, however. Some herbs can cause side effects as serious or more serious during pregnancy than OTC or prescription medications.
If natural alternatives aren’t effective during pregnancy, other OTC medications are considered safer than ibuprofen. Acetaminophen products such as Tylenol may be recommended, but acetaminophen isn’t completely risk-free during pregnancy, so it should be discussed with a doctor first. For many years acetaminophen was thought to be almost entirely safe during pregnancy. In recent years, some research has linked it to an increased risk of conditions such as ADHD when used during pregnancy.
Many OTC pain medicines are classified as NSAIDs, so women should be very careful before using anything to ensure that it’s not an NSAID. It can be shocking to some women that ibuprofen is not safe during pregnancy because it is considered an everyday medicine otherwise. If you’re concerned about using any medicine or substance during pregnancy, always consult with your physician first.
Lehman, Shereen. “More evidence of NSAID risk in early pregnancy.” Reuters, June 20, 2018. Accessed June 25, 2020.
Liew, Zeyan; et al. “Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy, Beha[…]erkinetic Disorders.” JAMA Pediatrics, April 2014. Accessed June 25, 2020.
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