Pregnant women who take pain relievers during their pregnancy are one and a half times more likely to have complications than women who don’t, a study has found.
Researchers at the University of Aberdeen found that there were higher rates of preterm birth, stillbirth, neonatal death and physical defects in women who regularly took painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.
Around 30-80% of women worldwide take painkillers to relieve common symptoms of pregnancy, flu, fever and rheumatic diseases. However, researchers say current advice on which drugs are safe for pregnant women is conflicting.
Over a 30-year period, it analyzed more than 151,000 pregnancies and examined medical notes for those who had taken five common pain relievers: acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, diclofenac and naproxen.
Figures showed that the number of women taking painkillers during pregnancy doubled from 2008 to 2015.
While regulators have stated that acetaminophen is safe for pregnant women, they warn against taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin after the 30th week of pregnancy.
Aikaterini Zafeiri, from the University of Aberdeen, said expecting mothers should always seek medical advice before taking over-the-counter medicines.
She said: “In light of the study results, the easy access to over-the-counter painkillers combined with the availability of misinformation as well as accurate information on the internet raises safety concerns.
“This is especially true if incorrect or only partially informed decisions about self-medication are made during pregnancy without medical advice.
“It should be emphasized that paracetamol is associated with a higher risk when combined with NSAIDs and pregnant women should always consult their doctor or midwife before taking any over-the-counter medication.
“We would encourage a strong reinforcement of official advice for pregnant women.”