Is Taking Tylenol While You're Pregnant Safe?

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Pain happens in pregnancy for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes the pain is related to pregnancy, like a backache or other painful pregnancy symptom. Other times it's simply something that may have happened anyway like a headache or injury. So the question becomes, what can you do about the pain while pregnant?

What Pregnant Women Should Try Before Taking Tylenol

Trying non-medicinal things is a good start, like resting, ice, or heat as appropriate, but sometimes, your best bet at pain relief is from pain relievers. There are many over the counter medications available, but many of these are not good in pregnancy because of potential problems with your baby. Tylenol is considered to be generally safe in pregnancy for all three trimesters.

Why You Shouldn't Reach for Tylenol First

It is important to note that one large study found that there was a link between mothers who took acetaminophen during pregnancy and an increase in ADHD-like behaviors and prescriptions at age seven. This study does not indicate that there was a direct correlation, but simply a link that needs further study. It also did not report on the amount or frequency of use which may have very different outcomes. This amplifies the need for starting with non-medicinal pain relief.

There were also several studies that linked the use of Tylenol (acetaminophen/paracetamol) with asthma when it was taken prenatally and in the first six months of life. While there have been some questions about correlation and causation, the majority of the studies have found that there is a correlation with taking Tylenol and having a baby or child who has asthma or asthma-like symptoms up until the age of seven.

When to Take Tylenol While Pregnant

If your pain does not respond to other measures, it may be time to reach for the over the counter relief found in a bottle of Tylenol. Remember that being in pain is also not a positive thing while pregnant. It adds to the stress and that isn't good for you or your baby either.

While nothing is 100% safe or effective, this over the counter medication is considered a very low risk to you or your baby in pregnancy. You should ask your practitioner early on in your pregnancy what medications are safe, prior to you potentially needing them. Be sure to keep a list.

You can also feel free to call your doctor or midwife to ask about taking the medication in a specific incidence. It is wise to talk to your practitioner if you have aches or pains that recur on a frequent basis, particularly headaches as there may be other ways to cope.

It is not considered safe to take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or aspirin in pregnancy unless prescribed by your doctor or midwife.

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Article Sources
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  1. Liew, Z., Ritz, B., Rebordosa, C., Lee, P., & Olsen, J. (2014). Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy, Behavioral Problems, and Hyperkinetic Disorders. JAMA Pediatrics. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4914

  2. Magnus MC, Karlstad Ø, Håberg SE, Nafstad P, Davey Smith G, Nystad W. Prenatal and Infant Paracetamol Exposure and Development of Asthma: the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. Int J Epidemiol. 2016 Feb 9. pii: dyv366.

Additional Reading
  • Velipasaoglu M, Ayaz R, Senturk M, Arslan S, Tanir HM. Analgesic Effects of Acetaminophen, Diclofenac, and Hyoscine N-butyl bromide in Second Trimester Pregnancy Termination: A Prospective Randomized Study. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2016 Jan 29:1-16.