Can I take ibuprofen when I'm pregnant?

It depends on what stage of pregnancy you're at, but if you're unsure it's best not to take ibuprofen when pregnant.

Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) advises that NSAIDs shouldn't be used in the first two trimesters of pregnancy unless "the potential benefit to the patient outweighs the potential risk to the foetus". NSAIDs shouldn't be used at all during the third trimester unless on the advice of a doctor.

Paracetamol

Paracetamol, which isn't an NSAID, is usually recommended as a safer choice than ibuprofen. During pregnancy, it’s usually the preferred choice for treating mild or moderate pain and a high temperature (fever).

However, it's important to get advice from your midwife or GP before taking any medicine when you're pregnant.

For more information, see Can I take paracetamol when I'm pregnant?

Ibuprofen

During weeks 1-13 (first trimester), avoid taking ibuprofen because:

  • it may increase the risk of miscarriage
  • your baby could develop a heart defect or other abnormalities, such as defects in their abdominal wall or a cleft palate

Further research is needed to understand whether ibuprofen used during early pregnancy can lead to these complications or not. Until then, during weeks 14-27 (second trimester), you can take ibuprofen occasionally if you need medicine to relieve pain and reduce inflammation, but opt for paracetamol if possible.

During weeks 28-40 (third trimester), avoid taking ibuprofen because it may:

  • increase the risk of heart problems that cause high blood pressure in your unborn baby's lungs
  • delay your labour
  • reduce the amount of amniotic fluid in which your baby floats

It's important only to take ibuprofen after week 28 on the advice of a doctor. Your pregnancy will be monitored regularly to check for any problems.

What if I've already taken ibuprofen?

If you've taken ibuprofen occasionally when you're pregnant, it's unlikely to cause harm to your unborn baby, but in the future you should take paracetamol instead.

Seek advice from your GP if you've taken frequent doses of ibuprofen after week 28 of your pregnancy.

Avoiding medicines during pregnancy

You should ideally avoid taking medicines when you're pregnant, particularly during the first three months. Conditions such as colds or minor aches and pains often don't need to be treated with medicines.

If you feel that you need to take medicines when you're pregnant, talk to your midwife or GP first. You can also get advice from your local pharmacy or by calling NHS 111.

When taking any type of medicine during pregnancy, you should use the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time. If the recommended dose doesn't control your symptoms or you're often in pain, see your midwife or GP for further advice.

Read more answers to questions about pregnancy issues, including medicines, vaccinations and supplements.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 04/04/2014

Next review due: 03/04/2016