Being pregnant, especially for the first time, can be a joyous and confusing time as you try and figure out how to get from month 0 to month 9 safely for mum and baby. You may find a lot of the stuff you could do before pregnant out of bounds now such as drinking and smoking – your new state also poses a new challenge in the way of pain relief and how, if you find yourself in pain, to relieve the pain without affecting your health or the baby’s. In this blog we take a look at paracetamol in pregnancy – we’ll discuss it’s safety, dosage and any alternative medicines and techniques you can try to give you relief from the pain.
Disclaimer: Best For Mums are not trained medical professionals and any advice given should not be taken without speaking to your GP or medical advisor.
What is paracetamol?
Paracetamol is one of the most commonly used medicine to relieve pain across the globe. It’s relatively effective and very cheap. Typically, those who take paracetamol will have headaches, aches, sprains and other nonserious conditions.
Can I take paracetamol while pregnant?
Yes, it is safe to use paracetamol when pregnant so long as the dosage is as recommended on the label. If you want to be extra careful we’d suggest not using paracetamol for the first 12 weeks as it’s the most critical time when a fetus may develop problems.
Women have been using paracetamol safely during pregnancy for years without any reports of adverse effects or miscarriages. In fact, most painkillers have been shown to be safe during pregnancy to relive the mother of pain and discomfort. Paracetamol is usually the first port of call when someone complains of a pain as its relatively harmless, cheap and effective – many women would pack paracetamol in their hospital bag when it gets close to the special day.
No one can ever guarantee that using any medicine is completely harmless to an unborn child so pregnant women should make sure to keep the dose as low as possible and only use if other alternatives have been explored which do not involve taking medicine which we will explore below.
Some paracetamol products may contain caffeine which should be avoided completely if you are still taking a low level of caffeine from coffees, teas etc – too much caffeine, especially early on, can lead to miscarriage. Typically, paracetamol on caffeine is used in cold relief medicines. Always read the label of any medicinal use during pregnancy.
To summarise, the use of paracetamol when expecting a baby is safe as long as the mother keeps the dose as low as possible, avoids using products which have added caffeine and only uses it as needed. We would recommend for those who are extra cautious to not use paracetamol in the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy just in case.
Do you really need pain relief?
We feel that if a pregnant woman is experiencing some mild pain during pregnancy that other causes and reasons should be explored first before you consider medicines such as paracetamol. The most common reason for mild pain during pregnancy are headaches caused by dehydration or muscle soreness caused by the normal effects of growing a baby.
The first cause, dehydration, is the most likely and it’s easy to prevent and cure. Pregnancy takes a lot of nutrients from the mother and one of the biggest nutrients it needs is water. If you’re pregnant try and make sure you take in plenty of water, more than you usually would. Make things easier by getting a water bottle with motivational targets so you know how much you need to drink. Say goodbye to those dehydration headaches!
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The second most common cause of pain during pregnancy is difficult to categorise or name but it’s the normal muscle soreness you’d expect from growing a baby. This usually manifests itself as a sore back – both lower and upper. Paracetamol can certainly help with this but what many mums have found to help throughout is to ensure you stay active and exercise as often (but safely) as you did before getting pregnant. Keeping your muscles active and challenged will make sure you don’t suffer muscle wastage, if you don’t exercise as much as you used to then you’re more likely to have a body that will struggle with the extra weight brought on by the baby.
When to not use paracetamol
Although paracetamol is certainly useful to help with mild pain and to lower a temperature, it should not be used to disguise a potentially serious situation or to help you “soldier on” unnecessarily. If you’re in constant pain that’s unusual and as a result of dehydration or “normal” pain, sharp pains or you’re in labour then you should contact your midwife immediately.
Unless you’re in labour then serious pain is not normal during pregnancy at any point.
Our recommended approach to medicine is to avoid it if you possibly can. Eating healthily, staying hydrated, being calm and staying active should help you avoid most discomforts and allow you to have an enjoyable pregnancy. I you are in mild pain and want to take paracetamol then be rest assured that it is safe to do so if they don’t contain paracetamol and you keep the dosage as low as possible.