Pregnancy and Pain Relief: What Expectant Mums Should Know


Pregnancy affects everyone differently, and while some women sail through each trimester with ease, others face all kinds of aches and pains that seem to last from the moment of conception right through to childbirth.

Morning sickness, backache, headaches and heartburn are just some of the pains and discomforts that expectant mums face, and while it can be tempting to self-medicate with regular over-the-counter painkillers from your local registered pharmacy, it is essential that you speak to your doctor or midwife before taking any kind of pain relief medication while pregnant.

Pregnancy & Painkillers

It is well documented that painkillers can be harmful to an unborn child, especially when taken over prolonged periods, with some medical reports suggesting that common painkillers such as Paracetamol, Ibuprofen and Aspirin can lead to fertility problems in baby boys, and even cancer in later life.

According to the National Health Service (NHS), expectant mums should avoid painkillers altogether during their first trimester, and due to the risk of heart problems and high blood pressure, the Department of Health advises against taking Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen during the third trimester of pregnancy. However, some painkillers are considered safe for pregnant women, specifically when taken in low doses.

Taking Paracetamol while Pregnant

Paracetamol is commonly prescribed to pregnant women by GPs and midwives for the treatment of mild to moderate conditions such as lower back pain, headaches, and high temperatures. The NHS states that there is no clear evidence to suggest that paracetamol is harmful to an unborn child, but it does recommend that you take the lowest dose for the shortest time possible, and do so under the supervision of a medical professional.

When taking paracetamol during pregnancy, it is advisable to cut down your caffeine intake, as high levels of caffeine can lead to a low birth weight and an increased risk of health problems. If you are not sure how much is too much, it is recommended that you discuss your daily caffeine intake with your prescription doctor.

Taking Ibuprofen while Pregnant

Taking Ibuprofen during the first 30 weeks of pregnancy can lead to a long list of complications including birth defects and even miscarriage, and so expectant mums are advised to avoid taking it unless specifically recommended by a GP or midwife.

The risks increase when you are over 30 weeks pregnant, when it is believed that Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs could reduce the amount of amniotic fluid surrounding the baby, and even cause heart problems, and so it should only be taken if the benefits of the drug outweigh the risks to your unborn child.

Taking Aspirin while Pregnant

Low-dose aspirin is commonly prescribed to pregnant women who are at risk of pre-eclampsia, but it is not suitable for everyone, and so self-medicating is not recommended.  If you are experiencing mild to moderate pain, discuss your pain relief options with your doctor who may be able to recommend alternative therapies and treatments that are both effective at reliving the pain and safe for your baby.