The WHO initially recommended using acetaminophen instead of ibuprofen to treat coronavirus symptoms, but now they have said otherwise.


Some of the most commonly used pain medications and fevers can be harmful to pregnant women and their unborn children, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.

The agency is requesting a change in the labeling of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to explain that if women take these drugs about 20 weeks or later than pregnancy, they can cause fetal kidney problems.

NSAIDs include both prescription and over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen, commonly known under the trademarks Advil and Aleve. It also includes diclofenac, celecoxib and aspirin above 81 mg.

According to the FDA, these drugs work by blocking the production of a certain chemical in the body that causes inflammation.

“It’s important for women to understand the benefits and risks of medications they can take during pregnancy,” said Dr. Patricia Cavazzoni, acting director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Problems with the fetal kidneys can lead to other complications associated with pregnancy, as the kidneys are responsible for producing amniotic fluid, a protective cushion that surrounds the baby.

Fetuses produce the most amniotic fluid, starting about 20 weeks after conception, and kidneys damaged by NSIADs can lead to low amniotic fluid levels, reducing the baby’s protection inside the mother’s womb.

Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said low amniotic fluid levels could also cause problems with a baby’s development.

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Doctors may detect a decrease in amniotic fluid levels as soon as two days after taking these medications, according to the FDA, but levels usually return to normal after a pregnant woman stops taking them.

The agency recommends that pregnant women avoid NSAIDs after 20 weeks and choose other medications to treat pain and fever during pregnancy, such as acetaminophen.

Wu said that taking ibuprofen and other NSAIDs in the third trimester can also cause heart problems in the baby.

“When you’re pregnant, your baby is exposed to all the medications you take,” Wu said. “Therefore, you should be careful and consult with your healthcare provider before taking any medication, including over-the-counter medications.”

Follow Adriana Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.

Coverage of patient health and safety in the United States TODAY has been made possible in part by a grant from the Massimo Foundation for Health Ethics, Innovation, and Competition. The Massimo Foundation does not provide editorial materials.

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