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Pregnancy is one of the most challenging phases of a woman’s life, where the body undergoes numerous physical and hormonal changes. It is important for a mother-to-be to exercise caution over what she consumes, as everything that is consumed is passed on to the developing foetus. Extra precaution needs to be taken when it comes to the intake of medicines and its effects on the baby should be known before taking any of it.
Is Taking Paracetamol Safe During Pregnancy?
Also known as acetaminophen or APAP, paracetamol is a common medication used in the treatment of pain and fever. It is usually sold over the counter and does not require a prescription in most countries, including India.
Paracetamol is the most popular choice of drug for pregnant women to get relief from pain and fever. Not only is it the world’s most popular painkiller, but it is also among the only painkillers which are known to have no direct side effect on the baby. While currently there is no scientific evidence to prove any side effect of the medication, recent studies on the co-relation of paracetamol and pregnancy have highlighted the increased risk of behavioral problems in children where the mother has consumed the painkiller during pregnancy.
How Much Paracetamol is Safe When Pregnant
The underlying principle of consuming medicines during pregnancy is that they should be avoided as much as possible. In case the mother needs to take paracetamol to reduce pain or bring down body temperature, the lowest possible dose should be taken and the medication should be restricted to the shortest time period possible. The general dosage varies from around 500mg to 1000mg every four to six hours based on the severity of pain and fever. However, the paracetamol in pregnancy dosage should be kept to a minimum as possible and the dosage should be decided by the doctor.
Possible Complications of Taking Paracetamol
Paracetamol is by and large a safe drug and does not cause pregnancy problems such as premature birth, stillbirth or miscarriage. Recent research on this topic has shown the possibility of certain complications arising as a result of intake of paracetamol during pregnancy:
1. Birth Defect
Consuming paracetamol in excess quantities during the first trimester of pregnancy can cause birth defects in the child. The child develops vital organs during the first trimester and paracetamol, which lowers testosterone levels, can affect the fetus.
2. Behavioral Problems and Slow Learning
Any medication consumed during pregnancy can harm the developing brain of the foetus. This may lead to problems related to learning, motor skills, reduced attention span, communication and general behaviour of the child in the future. Studies have also shown the possibility of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) arising as a result of the foetus getting exposed to paracetamol.
3. Respiratory problems
The child may also develop asthma and have wheezing episodes due to exposure to medication in the womb.
While these are some of the possible complications which may be linked to the intake of paracetamol during pregnancy, there is no concrete evidence yet to prove whether the drug has any evident side effects or not. It is, however, important to consult your doctor before taking paracetamol or any other medicine during pregnancy.
Try These Home Remedies Instead of Paracetamol
Even though there is no concrete evidence of paracetamol causing harm to the baby, it is always a good idea to try some natural home remedies to provide relief from pain and fever and avoid medication. This will not only help you heal naturally but will also mitigate any risk which may arise due to the intake of paracetamol.
Home Remedies for Fever Are as Follows
- Take a bath with lukewarm water in order to lower your body temperature (do this only if you do not have a cold and cough accompanying the fever).
- Wet a washcloth with cold water and place it on your forehead. Repeat this exercise to bring down the temperature.
- Consume hot soups frequently and increase your water intake. You can also add juices to your diet.
- Avoid unnecessary stress to the body and ensure sufficient rest. Pregnancy can be tiring at times. It is important to give adequate rest to the body and regain strength.
- Taking prenatal vitamins will help to improve your immunity system and keep you healthy.
- Avoid excessive clothing. Wear clothes made of light fabric to ensure good circulation.
Home Remedies to Deal With Pain During Pregnancy
- Body massage is one of the best ways to get relief from body pains, especially back pain and hip discomfort.
- Practice prenatal yoga to strengthen your muscles and increase your stamina (should be done under professional supervision).
- Acupuncture can also help in alleviating pain.
- Massage your forehead slowly or apply a warm compress to alleviate a headache caused by sinus.
- Application of natural oils and massage gels will help to reduce body pains, joint pains, and sore joints.
- Practice meditation to reduce stress-related irritations and pains.
- Apply cold compression to your lower neck region to get relief from stress pains and headaches.
Medication should be the last resort to help you with fever and body pains during pregnancy. Paracetamol should be taken only if the fever or the pain is unbearable or the aforementioned home remedies have failed to help.
Below are answers to some of the frequently asked questions regarding paracetamol consumption during pregnancy.
1. Can Taking Paracetamol Need Extra Monitoring Of My Baby?
Since there is no known side effect of paracetamol on the developing foetus, there is no need for extra monitoring of the baby even if the medication is taken.
As part of the usual antenatal care, most pregnant women undergo routine tests and scans throughout the duration of pregnancy to look for birth defects and to monitor the baby’s growth. Any disorder or issue can be identified via these tests and scans.
Intake of paracetamol during pregnancy third trimester should be avoided, as that is a stage when there is active brain development in the baby and the brain at this stage might be more sensitive to paracetamol.
2. Can There Be Any Risk to the Baby if the Father Has Taken Paracetamol?
There is no increased risk to the baby if the father has taken paracetamol any time before or around the time of conceiving the baby. There is no direct correlation between the two events.
Pregnancy is a period which mandates taking extreme care of the mother-to-be. Her well being is directly related to the well being of the baby. Anything that the mother consumes will reach the foetus and have a direct effect on its growth and development. Therefore, medication should be taken only after discussing with your doctor and understanding the possible side-effects of the same on the baby. Every pregnancy is unique and what works for one woman might not work in the same way for the other.
Also Read: Medicines to Avoid during Pregnancy