Although acetaminophen, known as paracetamol in several parts of the world, is generally considered safe for expectant women and their unborn children, there are some pros and cons to taking acetaminophen when pregnant. It has been used safely by pregnant women since the mid-1900s, making it is one of the most highly recommended pain relievers by doctors for expectant mothers. It is considered an effective treatment for minor aches and pains during pregnancy, as well as fevers associated with other illnesses. Despite these positive aspects, acetaminophen has not been widely studied in regard to its safety for pregnant women and developing fetuses, and some studies indicate that taking acetaminophen when pregnant can increase the risks of a child developing asthma early in childhood. Due to the wide use of this pain reliever in combination drugs, there is also an increased risk of overdosing, which can be fatal.
Acetaminophen was first sold over the counter in 1956. Since then, it has become popular world-wide as one of the leading over-the-counter pain relievers on the market, and it has been used by pregnant women with limited side effects, especially when compared to similar medications. The long-term use of this medication among both the general population and pregnant women has led acetaminophen to be one of the most highly recommended pain relievers and fever reducers by doctors caring for expectant mothers.
When taken in proper dosages, acetaminophen can be an effective fever reducer and pain reliever, causing limited stomach issues when compared to medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Oftentimes, pregnancy can cause aching throughout the body, and acetaminophen can temporarily relieve these issues, as well as minor pain in general, increasing a pregnant woman’s comfort level. During certain stages of pregnancy, a high fever can increase the risks of birth defects and may even be fatal for fetuses, especially during the first trimester. For women who develop a cold, the flu, or other illness that cause a fever, acetaminophen can reduce it, limiting the associated risks and protecting a woman’s unborn child.
Generally, medications are not widely studied as to their safety during pregnancy due to the general risk associated with conducting clinical trials on expectant women. As with most drugs, limited research has been done as of 2011 on how taking acetaminophen when pregnant can affect a mother and her unborn child. This drug’s safety is attributed to its overall safe use since its availability in the mid-1900s.
Smaller studies, however, have indicated that the regular use of this pain killer during pregnancy can increase a baby’s chance of developing asthma. The exact reason for this is still unknown as of 2011, and this potential link has prompted many doctors to advise women to avoid taking acetaminophen when pregnant for extended periods of time. Despite this, doctors typically tend to avoid advising the use of any medication during pregnancy unless absolutely necessary.
Another negative aspect of taking acetaminophen when pregnant is the ease at which one can overdose. This pain killer is often combined with other drugs in over-the-counter medications, and those who do not carefully read the packaging may unintentionally take too much acetaminophen if they are taking more than one combination medicine. An overdose of this otherwise safe painkiller can result in damage to the liver or even liver failure, which can cause extreme distress to the fetus and the mother, and may be fatal to both.