antidepressants during pregnancy, trying to conceive

Women who are trying to become pregnant often want to know what they should do to improve their chances for success. New research suggests that those trying to conceive should avoid taking pain relievers such as ibuprofen, naproxen or other NSAIDs.

Pain Relievers for Women Trying to Conceive:

Research shows that women who took such medicines while trying to conceive were more likely to miscarry in the early weeks of the pregnancy (American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, online June 8, 2018). Approximately 1,000 pregnant women participated in the study. Of these, 241 took only NSAIDs around conception and during the first five months of pregnancy. An additional 391 took acetaminophen, a non-NSAID pain reliever, instead. There were 465 women who did not use pain relievers during this time.

Nearly one-fourth of the women taking NSAIDs had a miscarriage during the first five months. In contrast, about 17 percent of the women who did not take medication miscarried. There were other differences, though, so the investigators had to make some statistical corrections. Even so, they found that women who took such meds while trying to conceive were more likely to experience difficulties.

Why Might NSAIDs Cause Problems with Early Pregnancy?

The explanation might lie with NSAIDs’ suppression of prostaglandin. Prostaglandins are essential for the embryo to implant itself in the uterine lining. This study does not establish a cause-and effect relationship. Nonetheless, it does suggest that women might wish to avoid these drugs while they are trying to conceive.

What About Acetaminophen?

Women taking acetaminophen did not miscarry more often in this study than those not on any pain reliever. However, previous research has raised a red flag about this medication. In 2014, researchers reported a link between acetaminophen (paracetamol) use during pregnancy and ADHD in the baby.

Here is our story from 2014:

Women who take acetaminophen during pregnancy may give birth to children who are at slightly higher risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. That’s the conclusion of a large epidemiological study of more than 60,000 Danish women (JAMA Pediatrics, Feb. 24, 2014).

Those who reported taking acetaminophen, the ingredient in Tylenol, were 13% more likely to have children with hyperactive behavior at age seven. These youngsters were also more likely to receive a medical diagnosis of ADHD or be prescribed stimulant medications such as Ritalin.

The more weeks the mothers took acetaminophen during their pregnancy, the stronger the association. Association is not causation, but pregnant women should limit their exposure to drugs unless such medicines are essential.

We discussed the diagnosis and (over)treatment of ADHD in a one-hour interview with Enrico Gnaulati, PhD, author of Back to Normal: Why Ordinary Childhood Behavior Is Mistaken for ADHD, Bipolar Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Alan Greene, MD, FAAP, founder of and author of Raising Baby Green and Feeding Baby Green.

Update on the Acetaminophen/ADHD Connection:

Epidemiologists have recently taken a new look at this link, using long-term data from the Boston Birth Cohort (Brain Sciences, July 3, 2018). The mothers in the study had given blood samples soon after delivery. Children of women whose blood indicated acetaminophen use were slightly more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.

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  1. Gina
    Akron Ohio

    Big Pharma is intentionally killing people! We have to spread awareness about these medications. Pain medicine and Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and can cause death.

    • Susan

      Re the statement “pain medicine and benzodiazepines are highly addictive and can cause death”.

      No one is promoting that people get themselves addicted to any pharmaceutical. I criticize Big Pharma for being greedy and making medications unaffordable for many people, but I don’t believe they are intentionally killing anyone.

      Not all pain medicines are addictive. Aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen aren’t addictive. You can take too much of them with harmful results, but that doesn’t put them in the category of ‘addictive’. If you’re referring to opiates, they can be addictive if overused, abused, and dosing instructions are ignored. Overdoses can be fatal.

      Some pain medication can cause troublesome discontinuation symptoms when stopped, and must be gradually tapered, not abruptly discontinued. That isn’t the same as addiction. Doctors should explain this distinction to patients when prescribing these medications.

      Benzodiazepines: You can abuse them and become addicted to them too; some people have taken fatal overdoses.

      I’ve taken prescription pain medications and benzodiazepines over several years for a chronic medical condition. I took them exactly as prescribed. I didn’t use them when my condition was in remission, and had no difficulties when I stopped taking them. When the condition flares up, I resume the medications, exactly as prescribed.

      These medications allow people with chronic medical conditions to live mostly normal lives when taken under medical supervision. They can also be prescribed and taken for other medical conditions.

      Don’t confuse the responsible patients who take these medications
      with drug addicts who abuse them.

      We’re all entitled to our opinions. However, statements like the one prior to this are inflammatory and misleading.

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