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Dangers of Pain Medication During Pregnancy


On January 9, 2015, the FDA published a safety announcement to help patients and health care providers understand the interaction between pain medication (prescription and over-the-counter) and pregnancy.

Types of Pain Medication

There are three types of pain medication that the FDA examined:

  • Prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These drugs are non-narcotic, and provide pain relief, fever reduction and anti-inflammatory effects. Examples include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.
  • Opioids: These are prescription drugs which include oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, morphine, and codeine. They carry an increased risk of birth defects when taken in the first trimester (about three months).
  • Acetaminophen: both over-the-counter and prescription, acetaminophen, these widely available drugs are used as pain relievers and fever reducers. They may increase the risks of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children who are born after use by their pregnant mothers.

The FDA’s Recommendation

The FDA’s safety announcement comes on the heels of widespread public concern about medication use during pregnancy. Sadly, it doesn’t clarify much. Their recommendation is simple:

…we evaluated research studies published in the medical literature and determined they are too limited to make any recommendations based on these studies at this time. Because of this uncertainty, the use of pain medicines during pregnancy should be carefully considered. We urge pregnant women to always discuss all medicines with their health care professionals before using them.

Basically, use pain medication sparingly, and only after consulting your doctor. The existing medical and scientific research is oftentimes conflicting—so don’t rely on research papers you find on Google.

This should be part of your pre-pregnancy planning, or at the very least, an issue raised with your doctor at your initial appointment. Find out what the doctor’s recommendations are if you get a headache, have an injury, or experience pain for any reason. Certainly, never take more than you need. Remember, medication may have an effect on the baby.

Doctors should prescribe pain medication in accordance with the findings published by the FDA. For questions about whether pain medication caused injury to your baby, contact our medical malpractice attorneys at (440) 252-4399 or online for a free consultation.

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