Can I Take Tylenol While Pregnant?

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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 symptoms. 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 to Try First

Trying non-medicinal options is a good start, like rest, ice, or heat as appropriate, but sometimes, your best bet at pain relief is from pain relievers, also called analgesics. Tylenol (acetaminophen), which is commonly used by expectant mothers, is considered to be generally safe in pregnancy for all three trimesters.

There are numerous other over-the-counter medications available, but many of these, including aspirin, Advil (ibuprofen), and Aleve (naproxen), are not always safe in pregnancy because of potential complications for you and your baby. Generally, aspirin should be avoided for most expectant women throughout pregnancy, and ibuprofen and naproxen are contraindicated after 20 weeks of gestation.

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

Concerns

While acetaminophen is generally considered safe, there is growing research indicating potential causes of concern. Some studies have shown possible associations of prenatal acetaminophen exposure to a diverse range of conditions, including asthma, lower intelligence quotient (IQ), autism spectrum disorder, and multiple neurodevelopmental, executive function, and behavioral problems.

One large study found that there was a link between mothers who took acetaminophen during pregnancy and an increase in ADHD-like behaviors at age 7.

However, this study couldn't show that acetaminophen caused these outcomes, but simply that there's a link that needs further study. It also did not report on the amount or frequency of use, which may result in very different outcomes. Another important component is the underlying reasons why Tylenol is taken, which may also be the cause of the complications.

There were also several studies that linked the use of Tylenol with asthma when it was taken prenatally and in the first 6 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 between Tylenol use and developing asthma or asthma-like symptoms in childhood.

These uncertainties about the safety of Tylenol in pregnancy amplify the need for more research. They also suggest it's safest to start with non-medicinal pain relief, when possible.

When to Take Tylenol

If your pain does not respond to other measures, it may be time to reach for the relief found in a bottle of Tylenol. Remember that being in pain is also not a positive thing while pregnant. Pain causes stress, which can lead to higher cortisol (stress) hormone levels, high blood pressure, and mental health concerns, such as depression and anxiety—none of which are good for you or your baby.

While nothing is 100% safe or effective, and despite indications of potential side effects, acetaminophen (especially in low, infrequent doses) is still considered a low risk to you and your baby in pregnancy. The benefits and risks need to be weighed on an individual basis between you and your medical provider.

Ask your practitioner early on in your pregnancy what medications are safe for you—before you need them—and keep a list handy.

A Word From Verywell

Feel free to call your doctor or midwife at any time to ask about taking Tylenol (or any other medication) in response to a specific need. Also, 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—or other issues going on that need medical attention.

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

  2. Food and Drug Administration. FDA recommends avoiding use of NSAIDs in pregnancy at 20 weeks or later because they can result in low amniotic fluid. Updated October 16, 2020.

  3. Liew Z, Ritz B, Rebordosa C, Lee PC, Olsen J. Acetaminophen use during pregnancy, behavioral problems, and hyperkinetic disordersJAMA Pediatr. 2014;168(4):313-320. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4914

  4. 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 StudyInt J Epidemiol. 2016;45(2):512-522. doi:10.1093/ije/dyv366

  5. Stergiakouli E, Thapar A, Davey Smith G. Association of acetaminophen use during pregnancy with behavioral problems in childhood: evidence against confoundingJAMA Pediatr. 2016;170(10):964. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.1775

Additional Reading
  • Velipasaoglu M, Ayaz R, Senturk M, Arslan S, Tanir HM. Analgesic effects of acetaminophen, diclofenac and hyoscine N-butylbromide in second trimester pregnancy termination: a prospective randomized study. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2016;29(23):3838-3842. doi:10.3109/14767058.2016.1148134