Use of painkillers during pregnancy may increase chances for a miscarriage

THE QUESTION Some medications taken by women who are pregnant are known to pose risks to the unborn child. What effect might common painkillers have?

THIS STUDY compared data on 4,705 women in their late 20s who had a miscarriage in the first five months of pregnancy with information on 45,050 pregnant women of comparable age who did not miscarry. While pregnant, 1,565 women (7.5 percent who miscarried and 2.6 percent who did not) took NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) other than aspirin, including naproxen, ibuprofen, rofecoxib, diclofenac, celecoxib or a combination. Taking NSAIDs was equated with a 2.4-fold increase in the risk for a miscarriage.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Pregnant women. NSAIDs are among the most frequently taken medications for pain relief. They also reduce fever and inflammation, and they can be used to keep blood from clotting. Side effects may include nausea, upset stomach and ulcers.

CAVEATS All NSAIDs taken by women in the study were prescription drugs; data did not include use of over-the-counter NSAIDs. However, all the women lived in Quebec, where only ibuprofen is available over the counter, and the women all participated in a drug plan that would provide prescriptions for ibuprofen.

FIND THIS STUDY Sept. 6 online issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. (

LEARN MORE ABOUT medication use during pregnancy at
and (click “pregnancy,” then scroll to fact sheets).

Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.