Health

Parents to be: Can I take ibuprofen while pregnant?

April 23, 2021
3 minute read
Cristian Halati

Ibuprofen is a commonly used painkiller that is widely available in Pharmacies and supermarkets and are occasionally  prescribed by GPs. Ibuprofen belongs to a class of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

It’s effective at treating a range of aches and pains, such as headaches, toothaches, back pain, arthritis pain, and it’s also used to lower inflammation caused by strains and sprains.

Ibuprofen is the generic name for the drug however you may have come across branded products such as Nurofen, Brufen and Calprofen. For the treatment of sprains and strains ibuprofen can also take the form of a gel to be applied directly onto the skin. In this blog, we discuss whether ibuprofen is suitable to be taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Ibuprofen during pregnancy

Ibuprofen is not safe to take during a pregnancy in any form, unless prescribed by a doctor, as it has harmful effects on your baby. Doctors can sometimes prescribe ibuprofen during a pregnancy in special circumstances, in which case the pregnancy must be closely monitored.

While ibuprofen is not recommended to take at any point during your pregnancy, it can cause particularly harmful birth defects if you are more than 30 weeks pregnant.  

If you are breastfeeding, ibuprofen is safe to take, however it’s recommended that you always check with your GP first.

If you have any questions about taking ibuprofen during your pregnancy, please get in touch with our pharmacy team. Our pharmacy team is here to provide free, professional advice for everyone.

What problems can ibuprofen cause during pregnancy?

Taking ibuprofen during your first trimester may increase the risk of having a miscarriage. Some studies have also suggested that ibuprofen used during early pregnancy may also lead to increased risks of certain birth defects, though these associations have not been clearly verified.

When taken during pregnancy after 30 weeks, ibuprofen may reduce your levels of amniotic fluid to the point where oligohydramnios can develop.

Oligohydramnios refers to low levels of amniotic fluid, which can increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and may cause underdeveloped lungs.

Ibuprofen taken after 30 weeks of pregnancy can also affect the baby’s circulation and heart, putting the baby at risk.

The safest painkiller to take during your pregnancy is paracetamol

I’ve accidentally taken ibuprofen during pregnancy

If you’ve accidentally taken a one-off dosage of ibuprofen before week 30 of your pregnancy, don’t worry. This is unlikely to cause any harm, however regular use is dangerous and not recommended. If you have any concerns, please talk your GP, pharmacist or midwife.

If you accidentally take ibuprofen after week 30 of your pregnancy, please speak to your midwife or doctor as soon as possible.

Which painkillers are safe to take during pregnancy?

It’s important to note that in addition to ibuprofen, aspirin is also not recommended during pregnancy, as it may cause similar harmful effects to your baby. Like ibuprofen, aspirin is also a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

For aches and pains, the safest choice during pregnancy is paracetamol. However, even in this case, it’s recommended that you take the lowest possible dosage, for the shortest time possible.

If paracetamol is not effective at treating your pain, please speak to your GP, as they will be able to assess the situation and provide appropriate guidance.

For more information, please read the official NHS Medicines in Pregnancy guide.

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