FDA Warning to Pregnant Women: Shun Common Painkillers in 2nd Half of Pregnancy to Avoid Complications

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The FDA has warned that using certain types of pain relievers and fever reducers in the second half of pregnancy could lead to complications. The agency now proposes label changes for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sounded the alarm urging pregnant women to avoid a group of over-the-counter pain relievers, including Advil and Aleve, for one month longer than previously advised. The FDA says those pain relievers should now be avoided by pregnant women for the last four months of pregnancy, instead of the last three.

Levels of the Protective Fluid

According to the advisory, taking these painkillers could cause rare but serious kidney problems in the unborn baby, leading to lower amniotic fluid levels besides increasing the potential for complications later in the pregnancy. The fetus’s kidneys start producing amniotic fluid after 20 weeks of pregnancy, meaning any problems can reduce the protective fluid levels. 

The FDA explained that low amniotic fluid levels could easily be resolved when a pregnant woman stops taking an NSAID. NSAIDs include both prescription and over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, and celecoxib. However, these recommendations do not apply to the use of low-dose aspirin (81 mg). FDA said low-dose aspirin should be taken under the direction of a health care professional. Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a board-certified OBGYN and ABC News chief medical correspondent said: 

“In obstetrics, we have known that there should be caution when using these medications in pregnancy for decades. This is really an FDA awareness alert for pregnant women themselves and other healthcare professionals.”

Impact the Baby’s Development

Becoming sick during pregnancy alone can be scary enough; leave alone having to stress about whether popping any pills to ease the symptoms could harm your unborn baby. According to Alane Park, M.D., mother of two sons and co-author of The Mommy Docs’ Ultimate Guide To Pregnancy and Birth, ‘One of the biggest things my pregnant patients are afraid of is ingesting something that may cause congenital disabilities or negatively impact the baby’s development.’ She adds: 

“The truth is that most medications are actually deemed fairly okay. While you want to minimize drug use as much as possible, the consequences of not taking a medication on the health of the mother and baby usually outweighs any potential risks.”  

Unnecessary Medications

If you’re looking for relief from pain and feel at ease during your pregnancy, check out with an obstetrician or call them up using the Global Telehealth Exchange, a telehealth App that enables you to consult a clinician using modern technology. It is advisable to avoid taking unnecessary medications during your first trimester; this is when fetal organs are developing, making them extremely vulnerable to medicines’ potential risks.

Among the most common calls that obstetricians and midwives receive from pregnant women is whether they should use pain relievers for pain or fever relief. Ashton also noted that obstetricians like herself sometimes use NSAIDs on women in their second and third trimesters to help treat preterm labor. She adds: 

“Acetaminophen, Tylenol [are] generally safe […] other than that you absolutely want to check with your obstetrician or midwife. It’s all about weighing the benefits versus the risks and using it under medical supervision.”

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