FDA: Pregnant women should avoid painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen after 20 weeks

FDA: Pregnant women should avoid painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen after 20 weeks
Crystal Cox/Insider
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is recommending that pregnant women not use NSAIDs after week 20 of pregnancy.
  • The class of drugs that includes Advil, Aleve and Motrin has been linked to kidney issues in the fetus, which can result in low amniotic fluid.
  • Low-dose aspirin, commonly used during pregnancy to prevent the high-blood pressure condition preeclampsia, is exempt from the warning.

The Food and Drug Administration has released a recommendation for pregnant women to avoid common painkillers during week 20 or later while pregnant.

Specifically, the FDA is suggesting women avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) and celecoxib (Celebrex).

NSAIDS may cause "rare but serious kidney problems" in fetuses, according to the FDA. That, in turn, can lead to low amniotic fluid levels.
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"Amniotic fluid provides a protective cushion and helps the unborn babies' lungs, digestive system, and muscles develop," the FDA recommendation reads.

Low amniotic fluid, called oligohydramnios, is associated with an increased risk of birth defects, miscarriage, and stillbirth.

The association between NSAIDs and kidney disease had previously been established, but the FDA said it wanted to make the warning more widely known, the recommendation said.
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NSAIDs are also associated with increased risk of heart disease for the infant when they're used after 30 weeks.

The FDA plans to update the drug facts label for over-the-counter NSAIDs to reflect the recommendation that they not be used after 20 weeks. The organization also recommends that doctors use ultrasounds to monitor amniotic fluid levels for women who are on NSAIDs for longer than 48 hours. Women who are currently taking NSAIDs should talk to their doctors, the FDA said.
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"Because many OTC medicines contain NSAIDs, it is important to read the Drug Facts labels to find out if the medicines contain NSAIDs. If you are unsure if a medicine contains NSAIDs, ask a pharmacist or health care professional for help," the FDA release read.

There's one important exception to the new recommendations. Women who are taking low-dose aspirin, commonly taken by those who have had early-onset pre-eclampsia and preterm delivery, should continue taking their medication.

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