In pain? The link between anti-inflammatory meds and miscarriage

Photography by Belle Verdiglione

By Hannah Schenker

Before you swallow down that Nurofen (ibuprofen), make absolutely sure you are not pregnant. The Australian Government’s Department of Health has released a statement confirming that there is a known association between use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and increased risk of miscarriage, particularly when the medicine is taken close to the time of conception.

These are the medications commonly prescribed and sold over the counter to treat the symptoms of arthritis, rheumatism, muscle strains, sprains, tendonitis and period pain. Yes, you might think your period pain is safe to treat with Nurofen, but if you’re trying to conceive, you might want to give that one a miss and try some other pain relieving tactics, such as rest, gentle exercise, heat, diet or even acupuncture.

NSAIDs include:

  • aspirin
  • celecoxib
  • diclofenac
  • etoricoxib
  • flurbiprofen
  • ibuprofen
  • indometacin (previously known as indomethacin)
  • ketoprofen
  • ketorolac trometamol
  • mefenamic acid
  • meloxicam
  • naproxen
  • parecoxib
  • piroxicam
  • sulindac

They also confirm that this association with miscarriage is already known among health professionals, but not adequately labelled in warnings, which they aim to correct.

They say:
“Non-aspirin NSAIDs that can be bought over-the-counter are required to have various advisory statements on their labels. The following advisory statement is used for non-aspirin NSAIDs (other than diclofenac when indicated for children, preparations used for dermal or external use and those indicated exclusively for period pain) in relation to the risk of use in pregnancy:

‘Do not use [this product/insert name of product] during the first 6 months of pregnancy, except on doctor’s advice. Do not use at all during the last 3 months of pregnancy.’

The TGA review found that this advisory statement does not address the use in women who have just conceived and are therefore unlikely to be aware that they are pregnant. This is relevant, as the data suggests that the risk is greatest when the medicine is taken close to the time of conception.”

So, if you think you might be pregnant, or are trying for a baby, it’s time to look for an alternative pain relief solution, for the health of you and your unborn baby. Consult your Doctor before using any of these products and do some research into pain-relieving alternatives.

Hannah Schenker is a freelance writer, editor and regular contributor to The Natural Parent Magazine. She lives with a touch of magic in Golden Bay, New Zealand. 

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