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Warning over use of common painkillers in pregnancy as babies at risk

TAKING paracetamol while pregnant could harm your baby, experts warn.

A study found mums-to-be who take painkillers are more likely to have a preterm birth or a baby with birth defects.

Polls found eight out of 10 women say they have taken painkillers to ease pregnancy symptomsCredit: Alamy

Eight out of 10 women pop paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin to deal with pregnancy woes – but they risk taking too much. 

Study author Aikaterini Zafeiri, from the University of Aberdeen, said: “The ease of access to painkillers, in combination with misinformation on the internet, raises safety concerns.

“This is especially when self-medication decisions are taken during pregnancy without medical advice.”

Data from 151,000 births over 30 years in Scotland found babies born to mums who took painkillers were 50 per cent more likely to be premature.

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They were 28 per cent more likely to be underweight, compared to babies whose mothers did not take the pills, and at a 57 per cent higher risk of needing neonatal hospital care.

Birth defects in the brain, spine and penis were also more likely, along with the danger of stillbirth or death shortly after birth.

The NHS says paracetamol is the first choice painkiller for most mums-to-be but they should only take a low dose for a short period – and avoid ibuprofen.

Health service experts say: “Most medicines taken during pregnancy cross the placenta and reach the baby.

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“Before taking any medicine when you're pregnant, including painkillers, check with your pharmacist, midwife or GP that it's suitable.”

Scientists don’t fully understand why the pills are risky but ibuprofen can damage kidneys and blood circulation, and paracetamol may disrupt crucial hormones.

Writing in the journal BMJ Open, Ms Zafeiri added: “The use of paracetamol in combination with other anti-inflammatory drugs conferred the highest risk. 

“Healthcare guidance needs updating.”