Are you pregnant and suffering from intense pain, which is so uncomfortable that it is interfering with your schedule? Have you thought about taking a painkiller, but are worried whether painkillers during pregnancy are safe or not?
If this sounds like you, look no further. Read our post below and learn about the safety of taking painkillers during these months.
Is It Safe To Take Painkillers During Pregnancy?
Painkillers or analgesics are the most popular medications on the planet. They help relieve pain and treat many uncomfortable conditions. However, the safety of using painkillers when pregnant is up for debate, and while some experts believe otherwise, over the counter painkillers aren’t safe during pregnancy.
While you are pregnant, one of your first concerns is to make sure that whatever you eat or drink during does not affect your baby. The safety concern does not just limit itself to food or drinks, but also to anything you may have to take, including medicines. But what do you do if the pain becomes unbearable? Do you go for some form of painkiller to ease the condition or do you continue being in pain?
One of the best people to tell you whether or not you should go for a painkiller during pregnancy is your doctor. So even though you may have the option of going for an over the counter painkiller, it is important to check with your doctor first.
When you take any medicines while you are pregnant, there is always the risk that particles from the medicine can cross your placenta and reach your baby’s bloodstream. The particles in the medicines are miniscule and can cross the barrier that is otherwise provided by your placenta. The particles will mix with the other sources of nutrition that cross over from you to your baby, and will reach your unborn baby’s bloodstream The dosage of the medication, your overall health, any other medication that you are already taking, and how advanced or early is your pregnancy, are all factors that determine the amount of risk that the medicine can have for your unborn baby (1).
Pain medications are also known as analgesics. Such pain medications can be easily obtained as over the counter medications, and do not need any prescription in most cases. A medication that will require a prescription is almost always strong in its effect. Hence, it may not always be safe while you are pregnant, as it can also result in some side effects for your unborn baby. It does not however mean that any pain killer that you can obtain as an over the counter medicine without the need for a prescription is safe during your pregnancy. There are medicines that can cause a significant amount of damage to a developing baby. Some of the most common effects that the medicines can trigger include birth defects and labor or delivery complications.
[ Read: Safe Medications During Pregnancy ]
Here is a look at the different types of painkillers that are available and whether or not they are safe enough to be taken while you are pregnant or if they should be avoided. Ensure that you speak to your doctor before taking any of the following types of medicines while you are pregnant and later during your breastfeeding months:
Over the counter Painkillers
The over the counter type of painkillers for pregnancy fall into two categories, depending on their active ingredients:
It is the active ingredient found in the painkiller Tylenol. The particular type of painkiller is safe to be taken while you are pregnant. Acetaminophen is mostly used in cases where you suffer from a headache, have pain in your joints or over the body, or even when you have a sore throat that pains a lot. It is usually considered safe to be taken during the first, second as well as third trimester.
2. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs):
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, or NSAIDs, are usually the following types of painkillers:
One of the active ingredients in aspirin is salicylic acid, which can be extremely dangerous for your unborn baby. Hence, it is recommended that you do not take aspirin while you are pregnant, as it can lead to harmful effects on both your unborn baby as well as in you. Another major reason to avoid aspirin is that if you take it closer to your delivery date, it can lead to severe blood loss at the time of labor. Aspirin can also cause interference with your platelet function and cause bleeding in both you and your unborn baby. Only in rare cases, your doctor may prescribe that you take aspirin to treat your pain. However, it will depend on whether you have another medical condition that you are suffering from while you are pregnant. One such condition in which you may need to take aspirin even while you are pregnant is if you are suffering from preeclampsia, in which case you may have the risk of blood clots.
Motrin, or Ibuprofen, is considered likely safe to be taken while you are in your first or second trimester only. Make sure you check with your doctor before taking the same. Also, you should not take Motrin in your third trimester, as it can lead to excess loss of blood at the time of delivery.
Aleve, or naproxen, is considered likely safe to be while you are in your first or second trimester only. Make sure you check with your doctor before taking the same. Also, you should not take Aleve in your third trimester, as it can lead to excess loss of blood at the time of delivery (2).
The most common form of prescription painkillers is known as opioids. Such types of pain killers are derived from the poppy plant. Prescription painkillers, or the opioids, are also known as narcotic drugs, which are a form of controlled substances, which means they should only be taken as per the prescribed dosage. Buying or using such drugs, which fall under the narcotic drugs category, is considered illegal if you do not have a proper doctor’s prescription for the same.
- Narcotic drugs are highly potent and have a profound impact. They are mostly used in severe cases of trauma or pain, such as pain that may result from an injury, a severe case of a migraine headache or some form of surgery.
- Prescription painkillers are too strong to be used while you are pregnant, and there is no medical or scientific data that supports its use during these months.
- There are various risks associated with taking prescription painkillers while pregnant. Some of the most common risks include miscarriage, premature birth or even a stillbirth.
[ Read: Preventive Measures To Avoid Stillbirth ]
- In case you do manage to deliver your baby, your baby will be at a very high risk of contracting some or the other condition at the time of birth. Some such difficulties that your baby could face at the time of birth are, having a low birth weight, excessive drowsiness that may prevent your baby from feeding and even difficulty in breathing.
Here are some of the most commonly available prescription painkillers that are available in different types and forms depending on the brand name:
- Codeine (in some states, it is also available without a prescription but should definitely not be taken while you are pregnant)
- OxyContin (it is also known as oxycodone)
- Percocet (it is also known as oxycodone)
- Roxanol (it is also known as morphine)
- Demerol (it is also known as meperidine)
- Duragesic (it is also known as fentanyl)
- Vicodin (it is also known as hydrocodone)
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe the above painkillers that are unsafe to be taken while you are pregnant. If you are suffering from a condition that is more serious than the possible outcome of not taking the medication, your doctor may suggest you go ahead and take the medicine.
How Does Medications Affect Your Unborn Baby?
One of the most important factors that play a role in how your unborn baby will be affected by the medicine that you take is the trimester in which you are taking the medicine. There are some medicines that you can safely take in the first and second trimester, but you shouldn’t take them during the third trimester. On the other hand, there are certain medicines that you should not take in your first trimester but can later take it safely in your second as well as your third trimester.
Here is a quick look at how your unborn baby develops through the different trimesters and how taking medicines can affect your baby at that stage:
1. Taking Medicines In The First Trimester:
- Your first trimester is also one of your most crucial trimesters and poses some of the biggest risks for your unborn baby. The first trimester is the time when your unborn baby will need some of the most amount of strength and care to develop.
- During this period, all the important organs of your baby’s body will start to develop.
- When you take a medicine in your first trimester, it can directly affect your unborn baby’s development. Such an effect could lead to serious issues in your baby, which may include birth defects or even malformations.
- In case the effect of the medicine is too severe on the baby, it could also result in a miscarriage.
2. Taking Medicines In The Second Trimester:
- When you take medicines in your second trimester, there is an increased risk that it can cause damage to your unborn baby’s nervous system.
- Taking medicines in your second trimester can also cause interference in your unborn baby’s overall growth and can result in a very low weight at the time of birth.
- In most cases, your doctor will still tell you that taking medicines during your second trimester is the safest period to do so, as it will cause the least damage to your unborn baby.
3. Taking Medicines In The Third Trimester:
- There are many medicines that can be potentially dangerous if you take them in your third, or final, month of pregnancy.
- Such medicines can cause various problems in your unborn baby, such as difficulty in breathing once your baby is born.
- When you take any medicine, especially in the third trimester, the traces of the medicine will remain in your baby’s body even after the birth.
- Your newborn baby will be too small and sensitive to be able to cope with the effects of the medicine as compared to you. Hence, it can lead to severe complications.
Any medicine that you take when you are pregnant can also have a direct impact on the area that is surrounding your baby while inside your womb. In some cases, taking a particular type of medicine can cause contractions in your womb or may reduce the amount of blood that is supplied to your baby, resulting in serious health concerns. In other cases, taking certain types of medicines while you are pregnant can also cause your labor to get delayed, or result in a very prolonged labor, which can be very stressful and potentially dangerous for your unborn baby.
How Are Medicines Judged Safe Or Unsafe During Pregnancy?
In most cases, there is no preconceived data that can tell you whether it is safe to take medicine while you are pregnant or whether you should completely avoid taking it.
- Most medicine brands and companies do not perform any clinical trials or research on human females who are pregnant. The tests are conducted on animals, and the results that are achieved are what lead to a conclusion of safe or unsafe in most cases. It is the reason there are very few types of medicines that have a license to be considered safe to be used while you are pregnant.
- In many cases, the medicines are also considered safe or unsafe to be used while you are pregnant based on how they have affected pregnant women over years. In some cases, the effect of a medicine is noted over years for pregnant women and if there is no safety concern or side effect that is reported, it is considered safe to be used while you are pregnant. In some other cases, if a pregnant woman is accidentally given a medicine, the effects of the same also play a role in determining whether or not it should be considered safe to be used during pregnancy.
- The above criteria are what make some medicines fall under the safe medicine category while you are pregnant, whereas some are considered completely unsafe to be taken during your pregnancy. Such criteria are used in the case of both over the counter as well as prescription medicines, but it cannot be considered as the best way to judge the safety or the harmful effects of a medicine while you are pregnant.
- The medicine that you may or may not take while you are pregnant will almost always have a direct relation to other factors. Your doctor will always be the right person to decide whether you should go ahead and take a certain type of medication, or whether you should hold out for some more time and let the pain try and subside.
- Your doctor will also assess the risk of the particular medicine in terms of its pros and cons. Your doctor will assess the positive effects that the medicine may have on you. Also, your doctor will also assess the negative effects that the medicine may have on your unborn baby. If your doctor feels that the pros of giving you the medicine and the effect it will have on you are more important than the side effects it may have on your baby, you will be asked to take the same.
However, if your doctor feels that the pros of giving you the medicine and the effect it will have on you are less than the extent of side effect it can have on your unborn baby, your doctor will ask you to stay away from it entirely. In such a situation, your doctor may suggest some alternate modes of treatment that may help you to take care of the condition.
[ Read: Side Effects Of Steroids On Pregnancy ]
A Few Important Tips To Remember While Taking Painkillers While Pregnant:
Whether you are already planning to pick up that prescription medicine, or if you are still thinking about getting medicine to treat your pain, there are a lot of things you should take into consideration. Before you pop that pill, please make sure to go through the following points and only then take a decision:
- While you are pregnant, are there any other medicines that you are taking?
- Is your doctor aware of all the medicines that you are taking while you are pregnant?
- Does your doctor know that you are pregnant while you are asking for a prescription painkiller? Does your pharmacist know that you are pregnant while you are asking for an over the counter painkiller?
- While you are pregnant, are you also regularly taking your folic acid tablets?
- As the safest way to prevent any side effects to your unborn baby, try to avoid the use of any type of medicine as much as you can, even if it is usually considered safe to be used while you are pregnant.
- In case you are planning to start on any new type of medicine, whether it is a pain killer or whether it is a prescription medicine or an over the counter medicine, always speak to your doctor first.
- In some cases, over the counter medicines that are usually considered safe can also be very harmful to your unborn baby. Also, medicines that are easily available at supermarkets are not always safe to take while you are pregnant, and may cause dangerous side effects on your unborn baby.
- While you are picking up any medicine, whether it is a prescription medicine or an over the counter medicine, make sure that you first read all the instructions and warning labels. While some medicines may be sold as the ones that are considered safe, you should still look for any warning labels on the pack. It could alert you to a particular medical condition that you are suffering from, and that may have a negative impact on the way the medicine will affect your unborn baby. It may also alert you to any specific instructions in case there are any specific trimesters in which you should not take the medicine.
- While many people do recommend the use of herbal medicines to treat the various types of pains and aches, these too are not always without their negative effects. Some herbs can also react adversely with your system and cause harmful side effects to your unborn baby. Also, if you are taking any medication, the herbs can react to the same and lead to some dangerous side effects that can cause harm to your unborn baby. Make sure that you first speak to your doctor, even if you are planning to go for an herbal treatment option.
- If you have taken a medicine that is considered safe to be used while you are pregnant but are feeling any discomfort or pain, stop taking it immediately and speak to your doctor. Make sure to mention the name and dosage of the medicine that you took.
Always remember that your doctor is the best person to advise you on any pain killers that you should or should not take while you are pregnant. To be certain about the safety and intelligence of taking painkillers during pregnancy, double check with the doctor, even if you only need to consult her about some seemingly harmless over-the-counter medications as well. Stay safe during pregnancy and keep in touch with your doctor.
Moms, did you feel any pain while you were pregnant and were you prescribed any painkillers during pregnancy? What was your doctor’s opinion about the same? Tell us about your story here. Leave a comment in the section below. We would love to hear from you.
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