Use of Painkillers During Pregnancy Puts Health of Newborns Under Risk

16 May, 2022 15:25 IST|Sakshi Post

In pregnancy, ibuprofen and paracetamol increase the risk of preterm birth and stillbirth by 50%, according to a study.

London: According to research, using over-the-counter pain relievers during pregnancy increases the chance of having a kid with health problems by around one and a half times, prompting a review of medical guidance on the use of analgesics during pregnancy.

Over 30 years, researchers from the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom analysed data from over 151,000 pregnancies.

The researchers looked at medical records for non-prescribed maternal use of five popular painkillers, including paracetamol, aspirin, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as diclofenac, naproxen, and ibuprofen, either alone or in combination.

Preterm delivery before 37 weeks was 50% more common among mothers who used analgesics such as paracetamol and ibuprofen throughout pregnancy, whereas stillbirth was 33% more likely.

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Other dangers of painkiller use include neural tube abnormalities (64% increased risk), admission to a newborn ward (57% increased risk), neonatal mortality (56% increased risk), and birthweight < 2.5 kg (28% increased risk), according to the study published in BMJ Open.

"It should be reinforced that paracetamol in combination with NSAIDs is associated with a higher risk, and pregnant women should always consult their doctor or midwife before taking any over-the-counter drugs. We would encourage a strong reinforcement of the official advice for pregnant women," said Aikaterini Zafeiri from the University.

Between 30% and 80% of women take non-prescription pain relievers during pregnancy to treat typical pregnancy symptoms, including illness, fever, inflammatory, or rheumatological problems.

Current data on the safety of using certain medicines during pregnancy, however, is mixed, with certain pharmaceuticals regarded as safe and others not.

During the 30-year research period, nearly three out of 10 women used over-the-counter painkillers during pregnancy, a proportion that more than quadrupled to 60% in the final seven years. This indicates that usage is rapidly increasing.

"In light of the study findings, the ease of access to non-prescription painkillers, in combination with the availability of misinformation as well as correct information through the internet, raises safety concerns," Zafeiri added.

"This is especially when misinformed or partially-informed self-medication decisions are taken during pregnancy without medical advice," she noted.

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