Tylenol in pregnancy is safe, say OB-GYNs
- Doctors consider Tylenol the safest over-the-counter pain reliever to take during pregnancy.
- Despite an article urging caution, experts still recommend normal doses of Tylenol for pregnant women.
- Other pain relievers such as ibuprofen and aspirin are not recommended during pregnancy.
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All the physical changes that come with pregnancy also come with new aches and pains. Whether it’s headache, fever,
or sore feet, you don’t have to grit your teeth because of the pain.
“There’s no reason for anyone to have pain and pain during their pregnancy,” says Laura Laursen, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Chicago. “There are things we can do medically to give you safe relief.”
Yes, Tylenol is safe during pregnancy
One such drug is Tylenol, aka acetaminophen. Compared to other over-the-counter pain relievers, Tylenol is considered the safest pain medication you can take while pregnant.
The Baylor College of Medicine Obstetrics & Gynecology recommends it for common pregnancy symptoms:
- Pain from a stretched uterus
- General minor pains and aches
- Flu and cold symptoms
“Tylenol is one of the first-line pain relievers we use during pregnancy,” Laursen says. “It’s safe from the first quarter to the third.”
Pregnant women can take regular doses of Tylenol
Laursen says the Tylenol dose for pregnant women is the same as for adults who aren’t pregnant. Do not take more than 3,000 milligrams of acetaminophen every 24 hours.
For regular-strength Tylenol, that’s the equivalent of 2 tablets — at 325 milligrams per tablet — every 4 to 6 hours. And always review the proper dosage guidelines on the medication container.
Also be aware that acetaminophen is often found in other medications, such as over-the-counter cold, cough, and flu medicines. So if you take multiple medications, whether prescribed or over-the-counter, look for acetaminophen listed as an ingredient to make sure you don’t take too much in one day.
For more information on what you can and cannot take, see our article on how to treat a cold when you’re pregnant. For allergies, you can take Benadryl. If you’re not sure if you have allergies, a cold or the flu, learn how to tell the difference.
Too much acetaminophen can cause serious liver damage whether you are pregnant or not. This is because your liver converts the drug into a form your body can use. Too much can overload it and cause acute liver failure. In fact, acetaminophen overdoses account for approximately 50% of overdose-related acute liver failure cases in the United States.
There is still no link between Tylenol use and adverse birth outcomes
In 2021, a group of scientists urged caution against the drug, citing studies linking acetaminophen use during pregnancy to adverse developmental effects.
However, in response to the article, other scientists and health experts pointed to the limitations and problems with the studies used in the article and urged “not to recommend such precautionary measures” until that more precise data become available.
In another response, the researchers said the risks associated with untreated disease in a pregnant woman may pose more danger to a developing fetus than exposure to acetaminophen.
This 2021 rebuttal is just one of many attempts by the medical community to set the record straight. In 2017, the publication board of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine also reviewed a number of studies linking acetaminophen to behavioral problems. He posted a response that pointed out the limitations of the studies for any expectant mothers concerned about the results.
“The two main governing bodies in the field have analyzed these studies and determined that they were of very poor quality, lacked proper quality controls and did not use good scientific method,” Laursen said.
Additionally, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has not changed its recommendation that acetaminophen is safe for pregnant women to use in moderation and after consulting their doctor.
“Women shouldn’t worry. Tylenol is safe during pregnancy. Stopping abruptly,” Laursen says.
Avoid ibuprofen and aspirin during pregnancy
When it comes to over-the-counter pain relievers, Tylenol is the most recommended. Other pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen are not recommended by doctors for typical pregnancy pain.
Ibuprofen is completely banned, Laursen says. Similarly, aspirin is not recommended, unless prescribed by your doctor. For example, a doctor may recommend a small daily dose of aspirin for some women to decrease their risk of
. But if you are pregnant, do not take aspirin without first consulting your doctor.
Try alternative pain treatments without drugs
If you really don’t want to take Tylenol, or if it isn’t managing your pain, you can try other methods for pain relief during pregnancy. Lauren recommends:
- For lower back pain, use a heating or support belt
- For joint pain, try physiotherapy or yoga
Ultimately, your treatment plan depends on what suits your needs.
Tylenol, or acetaminophen, is the safest pain reliever pregnant women can take to relieve cold or flu symptoms, headaches, fever or body aches.
Despite a 2021 article urging caution about the drug, many medical professionals and researchers still say acetaminophen is safe for pregnant women and recommend taking a normal dose under the direction of a doctor.
Other pain relievers like ibuprofen and aspirin are not recommended for pregnant women.