Pregnancy is often associated with discomfort and pain. Some painkillers, also called analgesics, are safe to take during pregnancy. However, they should be used with caution. Dosage and timing while taking pain medication are important.
Some painkillers may be safe during a particular trimester, whereas others may be safe during other times during pregnancy. Some medications can cause birth defects or serious and even fatal complications for both mother and baby.
Therefore, it’s best to consult a doctor before taking any medication, including over-the-counter (OTC) medications, during pregnancy.
Uses and risks of painkillers during pregnancy
Acetaminophen is available OTC and generally safe to use during pregnancy, although you should talk to your doctor before taking them. It can primarily be used for headaches, fever, aches, pains, and sore throat.
However, some studies have shown there is an increased risk of behavioral problems in the child. The child may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, etc. if you have been taking large amounts of acetaminophen during pregnancy.
Acetaminophen should be avoided if you are allergic to it, have liver problems, or if your doctor has advised against it.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc. Ibuprofen and naproxen are also available OTC and have a lower risk of gastrointestinal symptoms and other side effects. They are considered safe up to 20 weeks of gestation. All NSAIDs, however, must be avoided in the second half of pregnancy.
The FDA recommends avoiding NSAIDs after 20 weeks of pregnancy because it can result in low amniotic fluid volume (the fluid surrounding the baby in the uterus). This condition is called oligohydramnios. If oligohydramnios occurs, the amniotic fluid levels generally return to normal. However, NSAIDs can cause complications for the fetus, such as kidney, heart, or developmental problems. These complications can be fatal.??
Both ibuprofen and naproxen should be used with caution during pregnancy and only after consulting with your doctor.
Aspirin is usually not recommended during pregnancy unless specifically prescribed by your doctor.
Aspirin may sometimes be prescribed to treat certain other medical problems during pregnancy, such as preeclampsia (high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, such as increased urine protein levels.) Daily low dose aspirin after the 12th week of pregnancy is considered safe and effective. It can prevent complications in pregnant women who are at the risk of preterm labor due to preeclampsia, decreasing the risk of fatal blood clots.
Strictly following your doctor’s instructions regarding dosage and timing is crucial. If aspirin is taken a day or so before delivery, it can lead to heavy, uncontrollable bleeding during labor.
Stronger prescription painkillers
Stronger prescription painkillers are categorized as opioids, which are considered narcotics. These painkillers are only prescribed for intense pain due to injuries, surgery, dental work, or intense migraine headaches during pregnancy.
Some prescription analgesics in this category include codeine, OxyContin (oxycodone), morphine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, etc. These drugs are rarely prescribed due to their potential risks, such as miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, stillbirth, and breathing problems in the baby. They are used only when the benefits of the medication outweigh the potential risks.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Price HR, Collier AC. Analgesics in Pregnancy: An Update on Use, Safety and Pharmacokinetic Changes in Drug Disposition. Curr Pharm Des. 2017;23(40):6098-6114. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28847300/
Top What Painkillers Are Safe During Pregnancy? Related Articles
When Should I Be Concerned About Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy?Pelvic pain in pregnancy is a common issue that affects many women. Learn what causes pelvic pain in pregnancy, how doctors diagnose pelvic pain in pregnancy, and what you can do to treat pelvic pain in pregnancy. Pelvic pain is common in women and can have a variety of causes. Some of the possibilities include inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and endometriosis.
16 Early Signs & Symptoms of Pregnancy: Could You Be Pregnant?What are the early signs and symptoms of pregnancy? Can you know before your missed period? Read about nausea and vomiting (morning sickness), bloating, tender breasts, and more. Explore first trimester symptoms of pregnancy and learn what week pregnancy symptoms start.
Am I Pregnant QuizWhat are early pregnancy symptoms? In some women, symptoms range from a missed period to feeling lightheaded. Others may experience typical "morning sickness" and food cravings. Could you be pregnant? Take the quiz!
Exercise & PregnancyPregnancy exercises and workouts for moms-to-be include Kegel exercises and prenatal yoga. A prenatal workout is an important part of healthy living. Try these safe exercises for pregnancy.
Is Cervical Stitch Safe During Pregnancy?Cervical stitch, or cervical cerclage, is safe during pregnancy up to 24 weeks. Find out why and how it’s done, as well as the risks associated with the procedure.
Is It Normal to Have Pain on Your Left Side During Pregnancy? Why and When to WorryLeft side pain and back pain are common symptoms that affect many women during pregnancy. Learn what causes it, how doctors diagnose it, and what you can do to treat left side pain and back pain during pregnancy.
Labor and DeliveryEarly and later symptoms and signs of labor and delivery are unique to each woman. Early signs of labor are "lightning" and passing the mucus plug. Later symptoms and signs that labor that labor is are the woman's water breaking, and when contractions begin. There are three stages of labor, stage 1 is the longest and occurs when the cervix begins to thin and dilate. During stage 2 of labor the baby passes through the birth canal and remains there until delivery, and stage 3, is when the baby is delivered.
Miscarriage is the medical term for the spontaneous loss of pregnancy from conception to 20 weeks gestation. Risk factors for a woman having a miscarriage include cigarette smoking, older maternal age, radiation exposure, previous miscarriage, maternal weight, illicit drug use, use of NSAIDs, and trauma or anatomical abnormalities to the uterus. There are five classified types of miscarriage: 1) threatened abortion; 2) incomplete abortion; 3) complete abortion; 4) missed abortion; and (5 septic abortion. While there are no specific treatments to stop a miscarriage, a woman's doctor may advise avoiding certain activities, bed rest, etc. If a woman believes she has had a miscarriage, she needs to seek prompt medical attention.
Pregnancy: Multiple Births, Twins, Triplets, and MoreMultiple births occur when a woman bears twins, triplets, or even more babies during pregnancy. More multiples are born today thanks to assisted reproductive technology (ART), including in vitro fertilization using fertility drugs. Women carrying multiples often give birth via C-section.
Pregnancy Myths and Facts QuizBeing pregnant is a delicate time for both mother and baby. Take this pregnancy myths and facts quiz to separate the myths and facts about being pregnant, and learn the truth behind healthy pregnancies!
Pregnancy Planning (Tips)Pregnancy planning is an important step in preparation for starting or expanding a family. Planning for a pregnancy includes taking prenatal vitamins, eating healthy for you and your baby, disease prevention (for both parents and baby) to prevent birth defects and infections, avoiding certain medications that may be harmful to your baby, how much weight gain is healthy exercise safety and pregnancy, travel during pregnancy.
Preeclampsia and Eclampsia
Preeclampsia is a condition in pregnant women marked by high blood pressure and a high level of protein in the urine. Eclampsia occurs when preeclampsia goes untreated. Eclampsia can cause coma and death of the mother and baby. Preeclampsia symptoms include rapid weight gain, abdominal pain, headaches, blood in the urine, dizziness, and excessive vomiting and nausea. The only real cure for preeclampsia and eclampsia is the birth of the baby.
What Is the Recommended Pain Reliever for COVID-19?Acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) can all be used for pain relief from COVID-19 body aches if they are taken in the recommended doses.
Stages of Pregnancy: Week by WeekSee pictures on the various stages of pregnancy. See and learn what changes a woman's body goes through and view fetal images of how her baby grows during the 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimesters.
Pregnancy: 7 Common Third Trimester TestsTesting is often recommended during the third trimester of pregnancy. These tests are designed to ensure the health and safety of both the child and mother. Common tests during the third trimester of a woman's pregnancy include:
- group B streptococcus screening,
- electronic fetal heart monitoring,
- nonstress test,
- contraction stress test, and
- a biophysical profile.
What Week Is the Highest Risk of a Miscarriage?Most miscarriages occur in the first trimester before the 12th week of pregnancy. A miscarriage in the second trimester (between 13 and 19 weeks) happens in 1% to 5% of pregnancies. The risk of a miscarriage decreases by 10% after the pregnancy crosses six weeks.
The loss of a baby within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy is called a miscarriage. Most women, especially during early pregnancy, will experience a miscarriage that is similar to heavy periods with slightly more cramping and bleeding than usual. It’s also common to have vaginal bleeding and pass large blood clots up to the size of a lemon.