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How Pain Management Works During Pregnancy

Woman Experiencing Back Pain From Pregnancy

During pregnancy, aches and pains still happen every day. New aches and pains might pop up, too, caused by changes in your hormones and your body.  Physicians tell you not to take medications during pregnancy without talking to them first. But do you have to, even if it’s an over-the-counter painkiller?

The Facts About Pain Medications During Pregnancy

Honestly? Yes. Even over-the-counter medications for pain. Under normal circumstances, these medications are safe enough to use. But during pregnancy, they could pose a threat to the baby. If you need pain medication while pregnant, you should still consult your physician before doing anything.

There are a few medications, even over-the-counter, that aren’t safe for a developing fetus:

  • Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen is a common over-the-counter pain medication and is easily a first choice in pain management or for a fever. You can buy it as a standalone or in combination with other medicines. Physicians also prescribe more than you can buy over the counter. Generally, Acetaminophen is safe for pregnant women to take with a physician’s consent. It’s one of the most popular painkillers pregnant women can take. Studies show that over 60% of women in the United States have taken this medication during pregnancy. Of course, you should never take medication if you are allergic to it. If you have preexisting liver problems, you should also refrain from using Acetaminophen. And if your physician tells you not to take it, you should follow their advice. 
  • NSAIDs: Ibuprofen is something that many women take during their adult life. Your physician might be inclined to suggest a different medication for headaches, muscle pains, and fevers while you’re pregnant. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, are sold over the counter, and your physician can prescribe more potent doses. For pregnant women, there are safer options. Studies show that taking NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.) during the early stages of pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage.  There are studies conducted on the link between NSAIDs and birth defects. These studies suggest that NSAIDs can increase the risk of heart or gastrointestinal problems if these medications are taken early in the pregnancy.  Much like Acetaminophen, NSAIDs haven’t been directly linked to severe conditions. Despite this, your physician might suggest Acetaminophen instead of NSAIDs. 
  • Opioid Painkillers: Opioids like codeine, morphine, or oxycodone are some of the most potent painkillers that doctors can prescribe. They are also one of the most abused medications in the United States. Studies suggest that using opioids can cause heart problems. They may also lead to premature birth, early labor, or stillbirth. If you’re taking opioids before you get pregnant, your physician might want you to stop taking them. However, a sudden stop in medication could cause harm to you or your baby. Instead of abruptly taking you off the medication, your physician might wean you off slowly so that you don’t withdraw. If you are still taking opioids during pregnancy, your baby can be exposed to them in the womb. Exposure can cause addiction in the fetus and withdrawal after they’re born. Neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, can be a dangerous condition. NAS can cause a baby to be too small or have respiratory issues, even if you’re not abusing opioids.

Consult With Your Physician About Pregnancy Pain Management

The most important thing you can do to protect your baby during your pregnancy while managing chronic pain is to consult with your specialist.  Pain control specialists will know what can be done to help keep you comfortable throughout gestation without harming your growing child. Schedule your consultation today.

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