pain medication for pregnancy

Pregnancy and discomfort are closely associated. But when your discomfort and uneasiness headway to pain, you may start wondering which medications can be safely used for relief. Fortunately, safe painkiller options exist, but extra alertness is necessary with everything else during pregnancy.

Pain medications, also known as analgesics, can be avail through over-the-counter and by prescriptions. It is recommended especially for pregnant women to consult with their healthcare professional or gynecologist about all the medication, including over-the-counter.

Usually, prescription-strength medications are more potent than over-the-counter medications. OTC medications tend to be more dangerous to the developing fetus. However, over-the-counter medications are not risk-free.

Can Painkiller Affect Pregnancy?

A variety of medications are prescribed to pregnant women to treat severe and persistent pain. Primarily, it includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, opioids, and acetaminophen. These drugs are available by prescription and over the counter. It is necessary to carefully weigh the risk and benefits of pain medications during pregnancy.

Due to the fear and fright of using painkillers during pregnancy, some women would rather suffer than treat their pain. These women are prone to the risk of undertreatment or no treatment for painful conditions. Severe pain, which is ineffectively treated, is mainly associated with hypertension, depression, and anxiety, which is not favorable for a healthy pregnancy.

Pain should be carefully managed in pregnant women as it is essential for the health of both mother and the baby. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that women who took NSAIDs and opioid pain relaxers during the early stages of pregnancy are more likely to have babies affected with specific congenital disabilities than those women who took acetaminophen.

Commonly prescribed pain medications are relatively safer than OTC during pregnancy. In addition, it is found that none of the analgesics increase the risk of major malformations, although precautions should be taken while taking this drug in the last trimesters.

Which Pain Medication Is Safe For Pregnant Women?

It is always recommended for pregnant women to consult with their healthcare professional or gynecologists before taking any prescription or OTC medicine. In addition, women taking painkillers and considering becoming pregnant should also consult with their healthcare consultant to discuss risks and benefits while using pain medications.

Healthcare professionals should be extra careful and continue to follow the recommendations in drug labels while prescribing pain medicines to pregnant women. Here is the list of certain pain medications that can ease your pain and discomfort-


Acetaminophen is an active ingredient, Tylenol, which is considered to be safe during pregnancy. It is primarily used for headaches, fever, pains, aches, and sore throat. Acetaminophen can be used during all three trimesters of pregnancy. The use of this drug in pregnancy is widespread; approximately 50% of women use acetaminophen during pregnancy.

You may buy acetaminophen online or in combination with other medicines. Your doctor may prescribe a higher dose, alone or combined with other medications as well. Acetaminophen is considered to be the most common pain reliever prescribed by the doctor to pregnant women.

Even if your doctor gives a “thumbs-up” to take acetaminophen, you should take as little of it as you can and for a shorter period.

Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug-

NSAID’s are sold through prescription and non-prescription, which are commonly used to treat pain and fever. It includes medications like ibuprofen and naproxen. Generally, the use of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug is safe during pregnancy, only up to 20 weeks of gestation.

However, in the second trimester, the use of NSAIDs is contraindicated. It is recommended to avoid taking these drugs as they can result in low amniotic fluid, and it can also create complications for the fetus. Once the problem is detected, and the medication is stopped immediately, the volume of amniotic fluid returns to normal.


Your healthcare professional may prescribed aspirin to treat a particular medical condition during pregnancy, such as preeclampsia. It works by inhibiting several chemical processes in the body to reduce pain and inflammation and inhibits blood clotting. As a result, it reduces the risk of deadly blood clots in pregnant women.

However, it is not recommended to take high dosages of aspirin, particularly after the 12th week of pregnancy, as it can create severe issues for both mother and the foetus.

Prescription Painkillers-

The most common prescription painkillers are opioids. All opioids are considered narcotics, which are not legal to use without a prescription. Anaesthetics of this strength are used for intense pain resulting from injury, surgery, dental issues, or migraine headaches.

In the US, approximately 6% of pregnant women are exposed to opioids during each trimester of pregnancy. According to comparative studies of analgesics, Opioids are used in therapeutic doses by pregnant women for many years. They have not been linked to any risk of significant and minor abnormality.

The prescription analgesic is available in various forms and brand names, including-

  • Codeine
  • OxyContin
  • Oxycodone and acetaminophen
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Vicodin

Opioids are potential drugs with adverse effects. Therefore, physicians recommend using these drugs occasionally in pregnant women only if the benefit of the drug overcomes the potential risk.

Pain Remedies for Early Pregnancy-

Pain in pregnancy is especially common during the fifth and seventh months when your uterus is generally housed in the pelvis and suddenly moves into your abdomen, which ultimately puts a lot of stress on your lower and middle back.

There are plenty of remedies recommended by a healthcare professional which can help to ease your pain or even get relief from it completely. Here are some of the remedies which you can try at your home to keep your body as comfortable as possible while doing the most important work – growing your baby!

  • Take medication
  • Practice prenatal yoga 
  • Try acupuncture
  • Get a prenatal massage
  • Seek chiropractic care
  • Book a physiotherapy appointment
  • Relax with meditation
  • Support your sleep
  • Wear a maternity belt


Although it is normal to experience pain during pregnancy, it is advisable to consult your healthcare professional if the pain is severe and causing discomfort and distress.



Lupattelli, A., Spigset, O., Twigg, M. J., Zagorodnikova, K., Mårdby, A. C., Moretti, M. E., Drozd, M., Panchaud, A., Hämeen-Anttila, K., Rieutord, A., Gjergja Juraski, R., Odalovic, M., Kennedy, D., Rudolf, G., Juch, H., Passier, A., Björnsdóttir, I., & Nordeng, H. (2014). Medication use in pregnancy: a cross-sectional, multinational web-based study. BMJ open4(2), e004365.

Black, E. et al., 2019. Medication Use and Pain Management in Pregnancy: A Critical Review. Pain Practice, 19(8), pp.875–899. Available at:

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