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Many women have been told that over the counter pain killers like ibuprofen and naproxen are perfectly safe during early pregnancy a time during which you might be in particular need of pain killers, between fatigue, abdominal pain, and possible headaches! But a newly Canadian study reveals that over the counter drugs may not be safe at all, and could increase the risk of miscarriage.

The study, published yesterday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, looked at nearly 52,000 Quebec women and found that those who had used a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) after getting pregnant were more than twice as likely to have a miscarriage! A total of 7.5 percent of the 4,705 women who miscarried had filled a prescription for a NSAID (in Canada, only ibuprofen is available over the counter, and they get prescriptions for that too if they want it covered by insurance).

In comparison, only three percent of the 47,000 who did not have a miscarriage took these medications. The study team found that the use of NSAIDs was linked to a 2.4 times larger risk of having a miscarriage. But, does correlation equal causation? "I cannot say, 100 percent, that this is cause-and-effect," senior researcher Anick Berard from the University of Montreal's CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center said. "But this could very well be a pharmacological effect."

The risk of taking drugs like ibuprofen while you are expecting a baby may be significantly larger than thought up till now. Until further research is done, it makes sense to stay away from these meds. But, what do you take instead? The study team pointed out that pregnant women suffering from long-term health problems like headaches, backaches, and similar complaints are best off taking acetaminophen (Tylenol in North America, Paracetamol in Europe). And because many women take a while before knowing for sure they are pregnant, the same advice should also go for every woman who is trying to conceive or who thinks she may be pregnant.

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