Can I Take Aleve While Pregnant?

Pregnant woman in bed with a headache

baona / Getty Images

Pregnancy comes with its fair share of aches and pains. Whether it's headaches, the strain on your lower back, or swollen feet, there seems to be an endless supply of discomforts related to growing a baby. When pregnancy-related pain is bothering you, you may find yourself opening your medicine cabinet for some pain relief only to realize you are not sure what's OK to take and what isn't.

If you keep Aleve (naproxen) on hand, you should know that this drug is not generally considered safe to take when you are pregnant. Aleve belongs to a class of drugs that should be avoided during pregnancy, especially after 20 weeks gestation.

"Aleve has been associated with a change in the fetal heart that affects how blood flows through the heart that can lead to high blood pressure in the blood vessels in the lungs. It also may have a negative effect on fetal kidneys that results in low amniotic fluid," says Megan Gray, MD, an OBGYN with Orlando Health Physician Associates.

What Is Aleve?

Aleve is an over-the-counter medication that has anti-inflammatory properties used for pain relief and fever reduction. It belongs to a class of medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs work by blocking prostaglandins, which are chemicals in the body that promote inflammation.

Is It Safe to Take Aleve During Pregnancy?

Aleve is not considered safe to take while pregnant, especially during the second and third trimesters. The FDA recommends against using Aleve after 20 weeks gestation because it has been associated with low levels of amniotic fluid. Taking NSAID drugs during the second and third trimesters has also been linked to low birth weight, childhood asthma, and maternal vaginal bleeding.

Taking Aleve in the first trimester may be less risky, but is still best to avoid unless your doctor specifically tells you that you can. There is some evidence that NSAIDs can cause miscarriage if taken early in pregnancy. NSAIDs may also interfere with hormones involved in implantation, without which an embryo cannot survive.

"Aleve can be taken in the first trimester of pregnancy if necessary, for pain relief or fever reduction, but it should not be the first-line treatment," notes Dr. Gray.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about taking Aleve while pregnant.

What If I Take Aleve Before I Realize I'm Pregnant?

If you took Aleve for a headache or other pain before you knew you were pregnant, you will probably be fine. Just stop taking it and let your doctor know.

If you made it to the second trimester without realizing you were pregnant, your doctor may want to measure your amniotic fluid levels. Discontinuing Aleve and other NSAID drugs can reverse decreased amniotic fluid in as little as one to two days, according to Alan Lindemann, MD, an obstetrician and maternal mortality expert and the author of “Modern Medicine: What You’re Dying to Know.”

Why You Should Not Take Aleve While Pregnant

Aleve and other NSAID drugs are considered off-limits during pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimesters. Taking Aleve can lower amniotic fluid levels or cause miscarriage. In rare cases, it can impact a blood vessel that is necessary for fetal survival.

Risks of Aleve While Pregnant

Aleve is not a safe drug to take while pregnant. There are several risks to be aware of.

Low Amniotic Fluid

Aleve can reduce the amount of amniotic fluid. "[Taking Aleve while pregnant can lead to] kidney malfunction, resulting in loss of amniotic fluid," explains Dr. Lindemann.

This important substance serves to promote fetal growth, cushion the baby, and has antimicrobial properties. "Low amniotic fluid can affect the development of the fetal lungs and gastrointestinal tract," notes Dr. Gray.

Miscarriage

Taking Aleve in the first trimester comes with some risk, so it's best to avoid it unless your healthcare provider decides that it's necessary to help you cope with pain and that the benefits outweigh the risks. "There may be an increased risk in early miscarriage if taken around the time of conception and implantation, as the anti-inflammatory properties of Aleve may affect implantation of the fetus in the uterus," explains Dr. Gray.

Premature Closure of the Ductus Arteriosus

The ductus arteriosus (DA) is a blood vessel that carries blood away from an unborn baby's lungs. After birth, the baby begins to breath and the DA is no longer necessary, so it closes. NSAID drugs have been associated with the DA closing too soon, which can cause heart problems and fetal death.

When Can I Resume Taking Aleve?

You can take Aleve after you give birth, and you will probably be pretty darn happy about that! Whether you give birth vaginally or have a C-section, you will more than likely experience pain and discomfort as your body recovers.

"NSAIDs are the first-line management in postpartum pain as they not only help manage pain but they also decrease inflammation as a result of tissue trauma with birth," explains Dr. Gray.

Pregnancy Safe Alternatives

Aleve may not be a safe option during pregnancy, but there are a few things you can try to treat your pregnancy aches and pains.

Prenatal Massage

Massage therapy has been shown to improve back and leg pain during pregnancy. Book a prenatal massage or let your massage therapist know that you are pregnant so that they can avoid any therapies that are not safe for you.

Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal yoga may help to alleviate aches and pains caused by the strain your baby bump puts on your lower back. A yoga class designed just for people during pregnancy will help target your specific needs and ensure that all your poses are safe for you and your baby.

Tylenol

Tylenol (acetaminophen) is generally considered safe to take at any point in pregnancy. If natural remedies just aren't cutting it, this painkiller may help. Always check with a healthcare provider if you have any questions about whether Tylenol is safe for you and your specific pregnancy.

A Word From Verywell

Aleve is not considered safe to take during pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters. It can lead to decreased amniotic fluid and issues with the baby's blood vessels.

During the first trimester, in rare cases, your doctor may decide that it's best for you to take Aleve if you have pain issues that would make it difficult to function without the use of NSAIDs. However, it's still best to avoid taking Aleve in the early weeks of pregnancy because there is a risk of miscarriage.

Was this page helpful?
11 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Research C for DE and. FDA recommends avoiding use of NSAIDs in pregnancy at 20 weeks or later because they can result in low amniotic fluidFDA. Updated October 2020.

  2. Operle M, Anderson S. Premature closure of the ductus arteriosus in an otherwise healthy fetusJournal of Diagnostic Medical Sonography. 2019;35(3):235-239. DOI:10.1177/8756479318824315.

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). Reviewed January 2020.

  4. Ricciotti E, FitzGerald GA. Prostaglandins and inflammationArterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2011;31(5):986-1000. DOI:10.1161/ATVBAHA.110.207449

  5. Nezvalová-Henriksen K, Spigset O, Nordeng H. Effects of ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen, and piroxicam on the course of pregnancy and pregnancy outcome: a prospective cohort studyBJOG. 2013;120(8):948-959. DOI:10.1111/1471-0528.12192.

  6. Li D-K, Ferber JR, Odouli R, Quesenberry C. Use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs during pregnancy and the risk of miscarriageAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2018;219(3):275.e1-275.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2018.06.002.

  7. Underwood MA, Gilbert WM, Sherman MP. Amniotic fluid: not just fetal urine anymoreJ Perinatol. 2005;25(5):341-348.

  8. Postpartum pain management. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Updated February 2019.

  9. Field T. Pregnancy and labor massageExpert Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2010;5(2):177-181. doi: 10.1586/eog.10.12.

  10. Holden SC, Manor B, Zhou J, Zera C, Davis RB, Yeh GY. Prenatal yoga for back pain, balance, and maternal wellness: a randomized, controlled pilot studyGlob Adv Health Med. 2019;8:216495611987098. doi: 10.1177/2164956119870984.

  11. Toda K. Is acetaminophen safe in pregnancy? Scandinavian Journal of Pain. 2017;17(1):445-446. doi: 10.1016/j.sjpain.2017.09.007.