According to a recent study, women who took anti-inflammatory medications around conception and early in pregnancy are more likely to suffer a miscarriage than women who did not take the drugs. Anti-inflammatory drugs are often referred to as NSAIDs or non-aspirin non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Many NSAIDs are available over the counter, including ibuprofen and naproxen. 

A total of 4,050 miscarriages were reviewed for the study. Of the cases, 352 women who miscarried were exposed to NSAIDS within the two week period before pregnancy or during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. All women were covered under the same medical insurance, which tracked all prescriptions filled during that time frame. Only the use of prescription NSAIDs was tracked.

In Quebec, the only over the counter NSAID is ibuprofen, but women in the study had access to prescription strength ibuprofen so they would not have to foot the cost of the pain medication out of pocket. After taking all contributing factors into account, women exposed to NSAIDs were 2.4 times more likely to suffer from miscarriage than women who were not exposed to the drugs. The drug with the highest risk was Diclofenac. The drug with the lowest risk was Rofecoxib. Naproxen and Ibuprofen fell somewhere in the middle in terms of risk. Researchers noted that dosage was not a contributing factor, so there is a chance that over the counter anti-inflammatory medications could pose a risk to pregnant women despite being approved for use during pregnancy. 

According to Dr. Anick Bernard of the University of Montreal, “The use of nonaspirin NSAIDs during early pregnancy is associated with statistically significant risk of having a spontaneous abortion.”

Due to the potential increased risk of miscarriage, it is best for pregnant women to speak with the obstetrician before taking any over the counter medications. Some combination medications may include NSAIDs. Further study is required to determine whether over the counter NSAIDs place women at increased risk. 

Source: Hamid Reza Nakhai-Pour, Perrine Broy, Odile Sheehy, and Anick Bérard. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 6 September, 2011.