Can I Take Advil While Pregnant?

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Pregnancy comes with its fair share of headaches and muscle pain. As your uterus enlarges, your center of balance changes, which can put a strain on various muscles, especially those in your lower back. Changing hormones also increase your flexibility, so it's easy to accidentally overstretch, leaving you sore.

If you normally reach for a bottle of Advil (ibuprofen) to cure a stiff neck or an aching back, you may be wondering whether that's safe now that you are pregnant. While it has some possible risks early in pregnancy, Advil is especially not recommended after the first 20 weeks because it presents some rare but serious risks for the baby.

What Is Advil?

Advil is a pain killer and fever reducer. Along with Motrin and Nuprin, Advil is a brand name for the drug ibuprofen. Many people use Advil to treat headaches or muscle pain like menstrual cramps or sore legs.

Advil works by blocking prostaglandins, which are chemicals in the body that promote inflammation. Prostaglandins use inflammation to heal, but this also results in pain and fever. "[Advil] reversibly binds to...enzymes, which decreases prostaglandin precursors, which helps reduce pain and inflammation in the body," explains Carlene Link, PharmD, BCPS, a clinical pharmacist based in Ohio.

Drugs that block prostaglandins to relieve their unpleasant side effects are classified as Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). Aspirin and Aleve are also NSAIDs.

Is It Safe to Take Advil During Pregnancy?

Expecting mothers should avoid Advil, especially during the second half of pregnancy. The FDA recommends against using Advil after 20 weeks gestation because it has been associated with low levels of amniotic fluid.

Advil and other NSAID drugs during the second and third trimesters are also linked to low birth weight, childhood asthma, and maternal vaginal bleeding. There is some evidence that taking Advil early in pregnancy may increase your risk of miscarriage and could impact a daughter's fertility.

Link advises speaking to a healthcare provider if you plan to take Advil in the first trimester, to make sure it's safe for your specific pregnancy.

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

What If I Take Advil Before Realizing I’m Pregnant?

Many of us take Advil for headaches or muscle pain, so it's pretty common to end up swallowing a few pills before you even know you are pregnant. If that happens, don't worry. The risks are more of a concern after 20 weeks, so you are most likely fine. Just let your doctor know.

If you took a pregnancy test around the time of your missed period or shortly thereafter, it's likely no Advil even reached your baby. "A blood supply is established with the placenta after you see that first positive," says Kim Langdon, MD, an Ohio-based OB/GYN with over 20 years of experience.

If you took Advil after 20 weeks because you didn't know that it could be an issue, stop taking it and inform your doctor. Dr. Langdon points out that your provider may want to do a few safety checks, like measure your amniotic fluid. Know that the risks associated with Advil are serious but also rare, so you may be in the clear. Just make sure your doctor knows so they can be proactive if any issues do arise.

Safety Precautions

Taking Advil during pregnancy is associated with serious risks to your developing child, especially after 20 weeks of gestation.

Fertility Issues

Ovarian germ cells are already forming in female fetuses. Studies on human ovary explants, as well as in animal studies, show that taking Advil early in pregnancy might reduce the number of egg cells in a female fetus. While more research is needed to confirm this risk, it is worth considering.

Low Amniotic Fluid

Taking Advil after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy has been linked to low amniotic fluid in the uterus. At this point in fetal development, the baby's kidneys produce most of the amniotic fluid, which serves to promote fetal growth, cushion the baby, and has antimicrobial properties.

Advil and other NSAIDs can cause kidney problems that prevent the baby from being able to produce enough of it. This can lead to issues like fetal growth restriction, birth defects, or pregnancy loss.

Premature Closure of the Ductus Arteriosus

The ductus arteriosus (DA) is an extra blood vessel that babies have in their hearts while in utero. The DA carries blood away from the lungs, which is necessary before babies begin to breathe oxygen. After they are born, it normally closes within a few days. NSAIDs like Advil have been associated with the DA closing too soon. Although rare, the premature closure of the DA is serious and can lead to heart problems and fetal death.

When Can I Resume Taking Advil?

You can start taking Advil after you give birth. In fact, NSAIDs may provide the best safe pain relief for postpartum pain. The risks are associated with blood transfer to the baby, which is no longer happening after the cord is cut. An insignificant amount of Advil will transfer to your breastmilk, so nursing mothers can feel free to take Advil as needed.

Pregnancy Safe Alternatives

When pain and soreness bother you during pregnancy, you have a few safe options to choose from.

Heating Pads

A heating pad may be an effective way to treat muscle pain. The main thing to be aware of when applying heat is not to let your body temperature get too high. Temperatures of 102 degrees Fahrenheit and above can be dangerous for your developing baby and increase the risk of birth defects. For this reason, hot baths, saunas, and hot yoga are not recommended. Heating pads are less likely to raise your core body temperature, so they are generally safe.

Prenatal Yoga

Gentle yoga stretches may help relieve pregnancy aches and pains. Taking a prenatal class will help to ensure that all of your poses are pregnancy-safe and it will target the specific areas of your body that tend to become sore when you are expecting.

Tylenol

Treating pain without drugs is always good to try first, but you don't have to suffer if that doesn't work. Dr. Landon notes that Tylenol (acetaminophen) is considered safe to take throughout your pregnancy. Always follow the label when it comes to dosages and check with your doctor.

A Word From Verywell

Advil is not a safe painkiller to use during pregnancy because it can cause rare but serious complications for your baby. Speak to your doctor about any bodily discomfort you experience during pregnancy and they will help you find relief in the safest way possible.

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