Bottle of ibuprofen
A study has found that use of NSAID pain killers such as ibuprofen can more than double the risk of miscarriage when taken before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

A Canadian study has found that pregnant women could increase their risk of miscarriage by using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, for pain relief. NSAIDs, common over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, raised the risk of suffering a miscarriage by more than 100 percent.

Pregnant women urged to stick with Tylenol

A recent study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that women who took at least one NSAID pain reliever, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy increased their risk of having a miscarriage, according to MSNBC. The CMAJ analyzed more than 50,000 pregnancies and observed more than double the miscarriages among women who had used non-aspirin NSAIDs during the first 20 weeks.

The authors of the study, according to The Guardian, urged pregnant women to steer clear of NSAIDs other than aspirin, and stick to over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin paracetamol. Paracetamol pain-relievers include Tylenol. The study observed that 7.5 percent of the 4,705 women who had miscarriages had taken at least one NSAID pain reliever, compared to the 2.5 percent who didn’t have a miscarriage, according to the Los Angles Times.

Double the natural risk

According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 50 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage before women realize they are pregnant, and 15 to 20 percent of all pregnancies result in miscarriage. The CMAJ study found that the risk of miscarriage rises to almost 35 percent when a woman takes a non-aspirin NSAID, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. The study controlled for other miscarriage risk factors, such as smoking, drug use or rheumatoid arthritis. There were 352 women who miscarried after taking an NSAID, out of 4,705 pregnancies that resulted in miscarriage, and 1,213 women who took an NSAID did not miscarry out of the 47,050 successful pregnancies in the control group. The researchers hypothesize, according to MSNBC, that NSAID pain relievers interfere with the natural reduction of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are similar to hormones and are manufactured by the prostate, and naturally decrease in the uterus during pregnancy. However, the authors also suggest that some of the women who took NSAIDs were in pain from a pending miscarriage.

Uncommonly common in U.S.

NSAID pain relievers are available over-the-counter in the United States but are only available by prescription in other countries. Many NSAIDs have to be prescribed by a physician in Canada and in other countries. Some of the drugs in question include diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen, rofecoxib and celocoxib, according to The West Australian. NSAIDs work by blocking certain chemicals in the body, including prostaglandins, which initiate inflammation and send pain signals to the brain, according to Wikipedia. Aspirin is an NSAID but was not one of the drugs considered to pose a risk. Diclofenac was shown to pose the highest risk, and rofecoxib was shown to pose the lowest risk. Rofecoxib has been removed from circulation.



Los Angles Times:,0,5064811.story

The Guardian:

The West Australian:

National Institutes of Health:

Wikipedia on NSAIDs:

Wikipedia on Paracetamol:




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