Pregnancy is infamous for coming with side effects, some painfully so. When I first found out I was pregnant, I quit drinking caffeine cold turkey and consequently had a three day headache that was horrible. With drastic hormonal changes, the average pregnant woman can expect to experience symptoms such as headaches, backaches, and menstrual-like cramping for the first half of the first trimester. Later in pregnancy, she can expect swelling, back pain, sciatica pain, hip pain, and miscellaneous muscle and joint pain. Upon experiencing these symptoms, it is normal to want to reach for any anti-inflammatory pain killers available. But what you take as medication during all stages of pregnancy is drastically important and can have lasting effects on your baby and your body.
So, is Tylenol safe?
This leads women to the often-asked question: can you take Tylenol (the brand name for the over-the-counter pain reliever and fever reducer known as acetaminophen) while pregnant? Customary advice says that Tylenol is the safest over-the-counter drug women can take during pregnancy for relieving pain symptoms. It is generally preferred over the use of ibuprofen or aspirin, which are cited to have caused birth defects when taken during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. While it is generally accepted as the safest choice for pain relief, there are reasons why a woman would want to use caution in taking Tylenol during pregnancy.
Studies show there is correlation with ADHD
Recent studies have led scientists to believe that excessive Tylenol use during the first trimester of pregnancy causes higher rates of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) in children. The women most affected reported using Tylenol for 20 weeks or more, especially during the final few months of pregnancy. Critics of this study claim that correlation does not necessarily prove causation, for example, a woman who takes Tylenol for painful pregnancy-related symptoms may have an underlying medical condition that is requiring her use of pain medication in the first place, and that perhaps it is that condition that caused her child to experience ADHD.
Suffering a high fever can be significantly worse for the baby
Women who might be concerned about putting their child at an increased risk for ADHD should consider the dangerous possibility that experiencing high fevers during pregnancy can cause. It is advised that pregnant women who have a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or more should take a fever-reducer to avoid a multitude or risks to the baby. The only fever-reducer approved for use during pregnancy is Tylenol.
If a woman is experiencing pain that requires the use of Tylenol, she should be careful to take the exact dosage recommended for her. Pregnant women can take up to 1,000mg of acetaminophen every four hours up to four times per day for a maximum daily intake of no more than 4,000mg.
Always ask your doctor
IMPORTANT NOTE: This advice is by no means a substitute for consulting with your doctor about use of medication during pregnancy. It is also important to note that if you experience pain such as a headache after repeated use of Tylenol, contact your doctor immediately. Extended pain can signal something serious in the health of you or your baby.
While no medication can be ruled entirely 100% safe to use during pregnancy, you can find a list of generally acceptable medications to take during pregnancy here.
Overall, if you are pregnant and experiencing symptoms that require the use of pain medication, stay away from NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, and choose acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead, being careful to take the exact right dosage. Be sure to talk with your doctor if you have concerns about your symptoms or about the use of Tylenol or other medications during your pregnancy.
Featured photo credit: Phalinn Ooi via flickr.com