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 medicine (NSAID). The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) advises that NSAIDs should not be used in the first two trimesters of pregnancy unless "the potential benefit to the patient outweighs the potential risk to the foetus". NSAIDs should not be used at all in the third trimester unless on the advice of a doctor.

Paracetamol, which is not an NSAID, is usually recommended as a safer choice than ibuprofen.

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

Paracetamol during pregnancy

When you're pregnant, paracetamol is the preferred choice to treat:

  • mild or moderate pain
  • fever (high temperature)

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

Ibuprofen during pregnancy

During weeks 1 to 13 (first trimester), avoid taking ibuprofen as:

  • 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 cleft palate

During weeks 14 to 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 to 40 (third trimester), avoid taking ibuprofen because it may, for example:

  • 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 now opt to take paracetamol instead.

However, if you've taken frequent doses of ibuprofen after week 28, get advice from your GP.

Avoiding medicines during pregnancy

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 treating with medicines.

If you feel that you do 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 call NHS 111.

If you take any medicine when you're pregnant, 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, get further advice from your midwife or GP.

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

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 28/03/2012

Next review due: 27/03/2014