Your head is pounding as if there’s construction going on in your brain. Your limbs ache. Your lower back aches. Your groin aches. You’re about to reach for the meds when it dawns on you: Can you take ibuprofen while pregnant? And if not, what will give these aches and pains their marching orders, even if only for a little while?
Let’s get into it.
Is ibuprofen safe during pregnancy?
If you’re here for the short answer, it’s no.
It’s best to steer clear of ibuprofen during pregnancy—as well as any other drugs that have ibuprofen as an active ingredient.
That means Advil and Motrin are both no-gos.
Why can’t you take ibuprofen while pregnant?
Ibuprofen belongs to a class of medications known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
The job of NSAIDs is to relieve fever and inflammation.
They do this by blocking enzymes (called Cox-1 and Cox-2) that make prostaglandins (the chemicals that respond to injury and infection by producing pain and inflammation).
Fewer prostaglandins = less pain and discomfort for you.
While this can be very useful when you’re not pregnant, the risks outweigh the benefits when you are. Here’s why.
What happens if you take ibuprofen while pregnant?
Taking NSAIDs at any stage of pregnancy might have potentially detrimental effects.
One of the big worries is that ibuprofen increases the risk of the premature closing of a fetal artery called the ductus arteriosus.
This artery allows blood to flow away from the lungs and into the body and usually closes naturally after your baby is born.
If it closes prematurely, your baby might be at risk of heart failure and even death.
As this study tells us, the use of ibuprofen appears to increase this risk by about five times.
At this point in your pregnancy, your baby’s kidneys produce urine that makes up a fair amount of the amniotic fluid (that’s the liquid that surrounds, nourishes, and protects your baby during pregnancy).
Kidney issues can lead to low amniotic fluid. This can be a problem because amniotic fluid helps with the development of all sorts of other systems in your baby’s body.
As for taking ibuprofen early on in pregnancy? Well, the research is still ongoing—but, as this study tells us, it may have effects on the development of your baby even in the first stages of your pregnancy.
How much ibuprofen is safe during pregnancy?
While it’s best to use other pain relief options, if you’ve already taken ibuprofen, you should be fine.
In fact, as this study states, up to 28.3% of pregnant women reported the use of ibuprofen at some point in their pregnancy.
One issue is that many mamas-to-be don’t even know they’re pregnant in the first few weeks of the first trimester.
Basically, we do what we can with the information we have when we have it. If you’re feeling worried, reach out to your healthcare provider.
So, next question: If ibuprofen is off the table, what pain meds can I take while pregnant?
What can I take instead of ibuprofen when pregnant?
If you need pain meds, acetaminophen is a better option than ibuprofen while pregnant (that doesn’t mean it’s risk-free—no medicine is—but it is much, much safer).
Steer clear of aspirin and naproxen. They are also NSAIDs and so are in the same risk category as ibuprofen.
And then, it may also help to explore other options to minimize pregnancy pain:
- Blow hot and cold. 🔥 ❄️ Alternating hot and cold compresses can work wonders.
- Hit the full-body sack. 🛏️ Body pillows are pretty great because they support your whole body and help reduce pain in a number of areas all at once.
- The magic touch. 💆🏽 Pregnancy massage can be an ideal way to relieve stress, pain, and discomfort.
- Get your stretch on. 🧘🏽 If it’s your jam, prenatal yoga is a great method for getting the kinks out and putting your mind at ease.
- Soak. 🛀 An Epsom salt bath can help soothe aching muscles.
Good luck, mama.
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