Prenatal Use of NSAID Painkillers Linked to Birth Defect Risk: Study

Over-the-counter pain medications, such as aspirin, Advil and Aleve, appear to be associated with an increased risk of several types of birth defects when taken by pregnant women, according to the findings of a new study. 

Research funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the risk for some birth defects doubled or even tripled when pregnant women took pain relievers from a class of medications known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSIADs)

In a study published in the March issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers looked at data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, involving prenatal use of NSAID painkillers by more than 3,500 women, and looked for 29 different birth defect groups among their children.

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Use of popular painkillers like Advil, Aleve and aspirin were associated with an increased risk of nine different types of birth defect, including cleft palate and cleft lip defects, anencephaly, spina bifida, encephalocele, anophthalmia or microphthalmia, transverse limb deficiency, amniotic bands and isolated pulmonary valve stenosis.

The increased risk varied from drug to drug and from one birth defect to another. Aspirin was associated with the greatest increase in any one category, with three times as many pregnant women giving birth a child with anophthalmia or microphthalmia than women who did not take aspirin. Anophthalmia is the absence of one or both eyes. Microphthalmia is when the child’s eyes are too small.

Those findings support a study published in the same journal late last year, which found a link between eye birth defects and NSAIDs.

Researchers indicate that more data is needed on how much medication the women took and how frequently to determine whether the birth defects are dose-specific and whether new label indications are necessary.

Health experts have pointed out that the relative risks are still small-to-modest and cautioned that doctors should weigh the risks of birth defects with the potential need for some women to take NSAIDs during pregnancy.


  • SunilJune 17, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    Teenagers don't have much money or much insurance. Maybe the psoren the teenager was texting has a million-dollar liability policy and we can get the insurance company to settle out of court for a few hundred thousand.

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