Common Over-the-Counter Medicines & Miscarriage

Women who take aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc.), or naproxen (Alleve) during pregnancy or just before may have an 80 percent increased risk of miscarriage, according to a study in the August 16, 2003 British Medical Journal. The study was conducted at Kaiser Permanente in the San Francisco Bay Area.

When women first had a positive pregnancy test, they were asked to list any and all medicines they had been taking since their last menstrual periods.

Use of the above medicines was associated with more miscarriages even after adjusting for fever or other symptoms, the mothers’ age, hot tub use, smoking, or previous miscarriages.

Those who took the above medicines in the days right around conception had a markedly higher chance of problems (a 560 percent increased risk, or 35 percent miscarriages). Most women who took the medicines for longer than a week lost their babies (an 810 percent increased risk or 52 percent miscarriages).

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) use did not appear to affect the miscarriage risk.

Before my oldest son was born, my mother cautioned us against using any medications during pregnancy unless clearly necessary – even avoiding something as common as aspirin.

Although more research is needed before we know with certainty about these medicines in pregnancy, the latest scientific research supports my mother’s gentle wisdom. Women everywhere should know about the potential risk.

Published on: August 18, 2003
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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