Can Pregnant Women Take Ibuprofen?

When you're pregnant, it can seem like the list of things to avoid is neverending. From sushi to soft cheeses and from caffeine to alcohol, it can feel overwhelming to keep track of how to best care for yourself and keep your baby safe. And it can feel hard to know what things should actually be avoided, and how serious the risk is. Wondering if ibuprofen should be added to the list of things to say goodbye to while pregnant?

Ibuprofen belongs to a class of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which includes aspirin and are used as fever and pain relievers. When you take ibuprofen, it blocks your body from creating substances that cause inflammation, which helps to reduce swelling, pain, and fever. It's usually taken at a low dose for short-term relief, as taking too much can cause dangerous side effects, such as stomach bleeding. It can also be detrimental to take when you're pregnant — but only at some points of pregnancy.

Avoid ibuprofen during your second and third trimesters

Many women want to reach for pain relievers when pregnant, due to all the aches and pains that can come with pregnancy. In 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning recommending that ibuprofen be avoided after 20 weeks of pregnancy. They warn that using any NSAIDs after this point in pregnancy can lead to kidney problems in the baby, low amniotic fluid, and other possible complications. Previously, it had been advised to avoid NSAIDs after 30 weeks of pregnancy, citing issues with the baby's growth and development due to the closing of an important blood vessel (via Healthline). Other research warns against the risk of cleft palate, cleft lip, and spina bifida, though more research is needed.

NSAIDs are found in many multi-symptom formulas, so it can be easy to accidentally take ibuprofen without knowing it, according to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Doctors recommend reaching for acetaminophen, or Tylenol, instead, which can be taken at any point in pregnancy. It's also advised to take single-symptom formulas rather than multi-symptom to avoid the risk of accidentally taking an NSAID. Check with your doctor to be sure.