The results of a new National Birth Defects Prevention study suggest that women taking over-the-counter painkillers during the early stages of pregnancy could be at increased risk for having babies with rare birth defects.
According to the study, which was recently published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, babies were three times more likely to be born with no eyes or with abnormally small eyeballs, if their mothers had taken aspirin or naproxen (sold as Aleve) during their first trimester of pregnancy. Moreover, a newborn’s risk of developing amniotic band syndrome, a condition which causes malformations like clubfoot, were also three times higher among women who had used painkillers during pregnancy.
Collection of data for the study involved interviewing women across the country about the drugs they took while in their first trimester of pregnancy. Specifically, they were asked whether or not they used common painkillers like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen (Advil). Researchers then compared the use of painkillers among 15,000 women whose babies had birth defects with 5,500 women who’s babies were born with no deformities. While the vast majority of defects being examined were not tied to NSAID use, the risk of certain birth defects such as cleft palate rose from 30 to 80 percent and the risk of spina bifida jumped by 60 percent.
These results do not definitively prove that painkillers are to blame for these birth defects, but they certainly serve as a warning sign to women who are pregnant and demonstrate the necessity for further research.
Until more information is known about the true risks associated with NSAID use in pregnancy, women should consult their doctor in order to discuss the safety of taking any pain medication.
(Source: Reuters.com article, “Rare Birth Defects Tied to Mom’s Painkiller Use.”)