Paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin are staples of most bathroom cabinets, used to treat anything from colds to headaches. But during pregnancy, there is some important information you need to know before continuing to use over-the-counter painkillers.
You should always consult your GP or midwife before taking any medicine during pregnancy. That said, many mums-to-be prefer to be informed about how pregnancy impacts their use of common painkillers simply for peace of mind.
The general rule of thumb regarding over-the-counter pain medication is to stick to the lowest dose available and avoid medication when possible, especially during the first trimester.
Higher strength aspirins (150mg and above) are not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding, but taking a low-dose aspirin (75mg) should not pose a problem during pregnancy.
In fact, taking a low-dose aspirin daily is actually used to treat some conditions during pregnancy, like Hughes syndrome, which causes recurrent miscarriage.
However, the NHS recommends using aspirin with caution during your final trimester, as it can put you at risk of haemorrhage. If you want to take aspirin, check with your doctor first to make sure there are no complicating factors that could make taking aspirin inadvisable.
Paracetamol doesn't carry the same risks at ibuprofen (see below), so if you require mild-to-moderate pain relief during pregnancy it may be recommended to you as the safer choice.
There is currently no evidence that taking paracetamol can cause harm to your unborn baby - but as with any medication during pregnancy, play it safe and stick to the lowest dose for the shortest time.
Official NHS guidance advises against taking ibuprofen during the first trimester of pregnancy. as it increases the risk of miscarriage and the development of birth defects.
It is not recommended to take ibuprofen in the third trimester, either, as it carries the risk of heart problems in the foetus and a delayed labour.
During the second trimester, there is no proof that occasional use of ibuprofen could prove harmful, but use paracetamol instead if possible.
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