Aches and pains are common throughout pregnancy, and some people take pain relievers to reduce their discomfort. However, experts recommend that pregnant individuals avoid ibuprofen (Advil) after 20 weeks.
This recommendation comes from the
For this reason, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) discourages people from taking ibuprofen during pregnancy.
People experiencing pain during pregnancy should contact a doctor to discuss the risks and benefits of medication. Pregnant individuals do not have to resign themselves to being in pain, and there are alternative options that can help.
Read more to learn about the risks of taking ibuprofen during pregnancy, alternative pain relief options, and when to contact a doctor.
No medication is safe in all circumstances for all pregnancies. Every drug a person takes carries some risk, and ibuprofen is no exception.
Research has established that ibuprofen can be risky after the midpoint of pregnancy, which is about 20 weeks. The FDA
Additionally, some evidence suggests ibuprofen may increase the risk of problems with fetal development. A
Ibuprofen during pregnancy also correlates with fetal development problems such as:
- gastroschisis, a condition where the intestines are outside the body
- cleft lip and cleft palate, which are splits in the lip, roof of the mouth, or both
- spina bifida, a condition where the spinal cord does not develop correctly
- anencephaly, which is where the brain and skull do not develop completely
- hypospadias, a rare condition affecting the penis
However, the same 2017 study did not show that ibuprofen use caused these fetal development problems. Other factors, such as the health conditions that caused a person to use ibuprofen may explain them.
Ibuprofen, as with other NSAIDs,
Ibuprofen crosses the placenta, which means these effects can pass to the fetus. It can interfere with the fetus’s platelet function, making it more prone to bleeding.
Hemorrhaging after giving birth is fairly common, affecting
During the early stages of pregnancy, the risks of using ibuprofen are at their lowest. This is when the medication is
However, there is no evidence that ibuprofen is safe at any stage of pregnancy.
Some research has shown a connection between ibuprofen use and problems with fetal development, and
However, there may be instances when the benefits of ibuprofen outweigh the risks. This could happen when a person is in severe pain and is not able to safely take other medications.
For example, ibuprofen and other NSAIDs may be helpful for people with fibroids that cause severe pain. People in this situation should contact a doctor to discuss the best option for their pregnancy.
In general, using ibuprofen at the lowest effective dose for the shortest period of time will pose the smallest risk, though there is no way to completely eliminate the risks.
Most doctors recommend acetaminophen (paracetamol) for pain relief during pregnancy. However, that does not mean acetaminophen does not pose risks.
A 2021 statement published in Nature Reviews Endocrinology suggests that acetaminophen may increase the risk of certain fetal development problems. People considering using it should weigh the risks and benefits, and they should contact a doctor before starting any new medication.
- Supportive clothing and girdles: Additional support for the uterus and pelvic floor may relieve back and hip pain.
- Physical therapy: This may ease pregnancy-related joint pain and injuries.
- Relaxation techniques: Progressive muscle relaxation and meditation reduce tension and stress, which can help a person manage their pain.
- Exercise and stretching: Remaining physically active may reduce the risk of certain types of pain.
- Alternative therapies: Some people find relief in acupuncture and massage. However, they should contact a doctor before trying alternative treatments.
A person may want to contact a doctor before taking any pain medication during pregnancy.
When they do so, they should mention the source of their pain. It may indicate an underlying health condition or pregnancy complication.
For example, many people experience pubic symphysis pain in pregnancy. This can cause intense shooting pains in the pelvis. However, the correct treatment, such as physical therapy, can help relieve a person’s symptoms. Support belts, as well as going up and down stairs backward, may reduce discomfort.
Pain during pregnancy can be uncomfortable and frightening. While ibuprofen is a common medication for pain relief, the ACOG discourages people from taking it during pregnancy.
If people experience ongoing pain, they may want to contact a doctor or midwife. They can recommend alternative treatments and medications that can help manage a person’s symptoms.