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Is Ibuprofen Safe During Pregnancy?

I’m so confused about what’s safe. Can I take ibuprofen?

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I’m so confused about what’s safe. Can I take ibuprofen?

The Bump Expert

Ibuprofen, commonly known by the brand names Motrin and Advil, is a great pain reliever and fever reducer. But it’s best to stay away from it right now.

Here’s why: While ibuprofen is actually pretty safe in the early parts of pregnancy, it can cause some serious problems for baby if you take it after 30 weeks or so. “Ibuprofen can actually cause an important passageway in the baby’s heart to close when taken in late pregnancy. That passage needs to stay open while the baby is still inside the uterus and is meant to close up soon after birth.” says Kelly Kasper, MD, ob-gyn and associate clinical professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine. “If that passage closes before birth, it can cause serious problems, including heart or lung damage and death.”

Because its potential side effects are so dangerous -- and because it can be difficult to remember what week of pregnancy you’re in -- many doctors simply tell their patients to stay away from ibuprofen completely while pregnant. If you have a fever or need pain relief, take acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead. Research has shown acetaminophen to be safe throughout pregnancy.

Already took ibuprofen -- either before you knew you were pregnant or before you read this article? Don’t freak out. “A one-time dose isn’t going to hurt your baby, even if you took it past the 30-week mark,” says Kasper. “The serious and scary side effects of ibuprofen tend to occur with repeated, chronic use of the medication. If you happened to take a dose of Advil because you had a headache last week and you’re 33 weeks pregnant, your baby will be fine.”

Plus, More from The Bump:

8 Ways to Deal with Pregnancy's Aches and Pains

What Else to Avoid During Pregnancy (and How Not to Miss It Too Much)

Worst Pregnancy Advice Ever

Kelly Kasper, MD, ob-gyn and associate clinical professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine