Painkillers Linked to Birth Defects When Used During Pregnancy: Study

The side effects of Aleve, aspirin and other painkillers may increase the risk of birth defects when taken by pregnant women, according to the findings of a new study. 

U.S. researchers warn that taking some painkillers may lead to an increased likelihood of rare malformations and defects that could result in blindness and other health problems for newborns.

The study focused on a class of over-the-counter drugs known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), that include Advil, Aleve, and Motrin.

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Use of the painkillers tripled the risk of birth defects, but the types of defects are so rare that even with increased risks, the chances of having a child with the defects were minute, researchers found.

The study was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, using data from the National Birth Defects Prevention study.

Researchers found that pregnant women who took Aleve (naproxen) or aspirin during pregnancy were three times as likely to give birth to children with no eyes, or with abnormally small eyeballs that often resulted in blindness. The conditions are known as anophthalmia and microphthalmia, respectively, and occur in one out of every 5,300 U.S. births.

The study’s findings also indicate that women who took painkillers were three times as likely to have children with a clubfoot and other physical malformations. Those defects, known as amniotic band syndrome, typically occur in one out of every 10,000 U.S. births.

They also saw smaller increases in the rates of cleft palate and spina bifida among women who used NSAIDs.

While the study found an association between women taking the painkillers and increased birth defect risk, the researchers did not make any causal connection indicating that the increased risk was caused by the painkillers.


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