A new study has found that the popular over-the-counter painkiller Motrin (ibuprofen) is linked to birth defects, and that expecting mothers taking it and other similar drugs early in pregnancy have an increased risk of giving birth to babies with congenital abnormalities. Defects linked to Motrin include cleft palate, spina bifida, clubfoot, amniotic band syndrome (ABS), and two severe eye conditions known as anophthalmia and microphthalmia. These findings were published in the December 2011 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
What’s the problem?
According to Reuters, babies of women who took Motrin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) during pregnancy – especially during the first trimester, a time when many women may still be unaware they are pregnant – experienced a three-fold increased likelihood of being born with no eyes (anophthalmia), or with abnormally small eyeballs (microphthalmia). There was also a three-fold increased risk of infants being born with amniotic band syndrome (ABS), a defect that occurs when strands of the amniotic sac tear in the womb and entangle digits, limbs, or other parts of the developing fetus.
Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that anophthalmia and microphthalmia occur in approximately one in 5,300 live births in the United States, while ABS was found in about one in 10,000 newborn babies.
Motrin (ibuprofen) is a popular NSAID that is designed to be used for the management of mild to moderate pain, fever, and inflammation – conditions which are promoted by the release of chemicals called prostaglandins. Ibuprofen blocks the enzyme that makes prostaglandins, resulting in lover levels of pain, inflammation and fever. Ibuprofen was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 1974.
Motrin and Pregnancy
The new findings are based on data gathered from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, which involved interviews with new American mothers. The women were asked if they took NSAIDs like Motrin, aspirin, or naproxen (Advil) during their first trimester of pregnancy. The researchers then looked at NSAID use in 15,000 women whose babies were born with birth defects and compared them with 5,500 women whose babies were born without congenital abnormalities.
According to the results of the study, cleft palate risks increased by 30-80%, and spina bifida risks jumped by 60%. And though the findings do not conclusively prove that NSAIDs caused these defects, they are a definite warning sign and warrant more detailed research in the future. The study’s authors urge women to consult with their doctor to weigh the risks and benefits of taking Motrin and other painkillers prior to undergoing a regimen.
Motrin Birth Defects
The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology study identified the following birth defects as being linked to the maternal use of Motrin during pregnancy:
- Amniotic Band Syndrome (ABS)
- Cleft Palate
- Spina Bifida