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What are the Effects of Taking Ibuprofen in Pregnancy?

By C. Daw
Updated May 17, 2024
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Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug that is used as a painkiller to help with arthritis, fever, headache and many other conditions. Although common types of over-the-counter ibuprofen products are used by millions of people every year, there are serious questions about whether is it safe take ibuprofen in pregnancy. Whether pregnant or not, there are many side effects that can arise while taking ibuprofen, but most people find that these side effects are minimal and it does not require them to stop using the product.

While doctors debate about the safety of taking ibuprofen while pregnant, almost all of them agree that ibuprofen should not be taken at all during the last trimester of pregnancy, or after thirty-two weeks. The reason for the concern is the increased risk of heart and lung damage that has been associated with the use of ibuprofen as an over-the-counter pain medicine. There has also been a potential link to lower amniotic fluid levels at the time of birth, as well as the chance that it may prolong the length of labor. Before using ibuprofen during the last trimester of pregnancy, permission from a doctor should be received.

Potential risks when taking ibuprofen in pregnancy during the first eight weeks have been reported. These first eight weeks of pregnancy are crucial for the fetus because many of its organs are being formed during this time period. Some doctors believe that many studies show a link between taking ibuprofen in pregnancy during this time period with the development of birth defects. Women who are planning to get pregnant should consider stopping the use of ibuprofen to ensure they will have a safe pregnancy. It is recommended that women stop taking ibuprofen at least one month prior to becoming pregnant.

Whether it is safe to be taking ibuprofen in pregnancy from the eighth week to the thirty-second week is still a subject that is up for debate among doctors. Some prohibit their patients from taking any ibuprofen at all, while others encourage them to only use it sporadically. Women who are pregnant should always seek the advice of a doctor prior to using any medicine, including ibuprofen. Women choosing to use ibuprofen during pregnancy should contact their doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms; constipation, heartburn, pain in the stomach, dizziness, or diarrhea. Women who decide not to use ibuprofen during pregnancy can contact a doctor for a possible alternative pain medications.

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Discussion Comments

By anon991625 — On Jul 04, 2015

I had a cracked wisdom tooth in my first trimester, and while I was waiting for my appt to have it extracted, my midwife ok'd me to take small doses of ibuprofen. I am currently 23 weeks pregnant, and just found out that the baby has an omphalocele. This is a birth defect that occurs/is formed around 6-10 weeks gestation.

I am repeatedly told to not blame myself for this defect, and that there was nothing that I did to cause this.

But considering the timing of the formation of the defect, and the same timing of my ibuprofen consumption, I have a feeling there may be a correlation here. I am just putting this information out there for anyone who may be weighing the risks and benefits. Looking back, I would have certainly endured the terrible pain, if I knew I could have certainly avoided this outcome.

By popcorn — On Jan 10, 2012

@Mae82 - Unfortunately Advil and pregnancy aren't the best mix, and doctors recommend avoiding it due to side effects. By far the safest thing you can take for headaches during pregnancy is acetaminophen which is generally marketed under the brand name Tylenol.

Acetaminophen is shown to have no risks relating to miscarriage or birth defects. If you are still worried though you should definitely talk to your doctor before taking anything. It is good to be cautious about what you put into your body during pregnancy and a quick fix for your headache definitely isn't worth any harm to your baby.

By Mae82 — On Jan 10, 2012

Does anyone know if something like children's Advil during pregnancy would cause harm?

I get the worst headaches and am pretty much willing to try anything to get rid of a bit of the pain. I haven't had a chance to see my doctor about this yet but it feels like my headaches are getting worse with my pregnancy. It might just be the stress though of trying to get everything sorted in my life as this wasn't a planned thing.

I have read that pregnancy and ibuprofen don't mix well, but I am hoping that something like Advil would be OK. I really need to take the edge of my headache.

By Sara007 — On Jan 09, 2012

I asked my doctor if is it safe to take ibuprofen during pregnancy and he told me to totally avoid it to just be safe. He basically said that the fewer over-the-counter medications you use during pregnancy the better as most of it has unknown side effects on the fetus.

What I had to do for my back pain when I was pregnant was sit comfortably on a hot water bottle and try for some nice baths. I was originally all about trying herbal teas until I read that they aren't regulated by the FDA and can cause more problems then they are worth. I think if you don't need a specific prescription to get by you should try to keep your diet and surroundings as natural as possible during pregnancy.

By candyquilt — On Jan 08, 2012

@ysmina-- If I remember correctly, my sister did use the ibuprofen gel during her pregnancy and it was fine. She had horrible back pains all throughout her pregnancy due to the weight of the baby and the doctor told her to use ibuprofen gel.

Ibuprofen gel goes on the skin so it probably doesn't enter the bloodstream like ibuprofen tablets do. I doubt that the medication in the gel would enter the baby's blood stream like the tablets do but don't take my word for it. I do agree with you that your doctor would not recommend it if it was unsafe.

But if you're still worried about ibuprofen side effects, don't use it. There might be a natural and safer alternative you could use.

By discographer — On Jan 08, 2012

This is bad news to me. I take ibuprofen regularly for migraines and even though I'm not planning on having a baby anytime soon, this article makes me wonder what would happen if I got pregnant by accident.

I heard that women who use ibuprofen soon before getting pregnant and also in the first trimester have a much higher chance of having a miscarriage. If I were planning to conceive than I could also plan to take medications accordingly.

But what if it happened by mistake? Wouldn't it be okay to quit ibuprofen right away and go for regular checkups with the doctor to make sure nothing is wrong? Or does this mean that the damage is already done? I need to learn more about ibuprofen and pregnancy.

By ysmina — On Jan 07, 2012

I'm currently in my second trimester and have arthritis in my joints, especially my knees and back. I asked my doctor if there is anything I can use because the pain gets really bad sometimes and makes it hard to even move around. She prescribed topical ibuprofen gel and I have gotten it from the pharmacy but I'm not sure if I should use it.

If taking taking ibuprofen is not safe during pregnancy, I think ibuprofen gel would be dangerous too, wouldn't it? I have no idea why the doctor would prescribe it if that was the case though.

Has anyone else been prescribed ibuprofen gel during pregnancy? Is it safe for me to use? If so, how often?

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