A variety of medicines are prescribed to treat pain, including severe and persistent pain in pregnant women. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioids, and acetaminophen.
NSAIDs are available by prescription and over-the-counter (OTC). They are used to relieve fever and pain, such as those associated with headaches, colds, flu, and arthritis. Examples of prescription NSAIDs include ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, and celecoxib. Ibuprofen and naproxen are also available OTC at lower strengths.
Findings from two U.S. studies indicate that approximately 18-25 percent of pregnancies are exposed to OTC ibuprofen and 4 percent of pregnancies are exposed to OTC naproxen.
Opioids are a class of pain medicines available only by prescription. During each trimester of pregnancy, approximately six percent of pregnant women in the U.S. are exposed to opioids.11 Examples of opioids include oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, morphine, and codeine.
Acetaminophen is used in prescription combination products to reduce pain and in OTC products to reduce pain and fever. Acetaminophen is found in hundreds of medicines including those used for colds, flu, allergies, and sleep.
Findings from two U.S. studies indicate that 65-70 percent of pregnant U.S. women reported using acetaminophen anytime during pregnancy.