FDA Reviews Pain Medication Use in Pregnancy

January 14, 2015

Can women who are pregnant be treated safely for acute or chronic severe pain without affecting the unborn child?

Can women who are pregnant be treated safely for acute or chronic severe pain without affecting the unborn child?

If severe pain is left untreated, it may lead to high blood pressure, anxiety, and even depression in the mother. It is also likely that the symptoms of those 3 disease states can cause unwanted effects on a fetus.

The FDA recently reviewed the literature associated with the safe use of opioids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and acetaminophen for treating severe and persistent pain in pregnant women. After doing so, the FDA concluded that the current literature on the subject is not sufficient enough to allow it to make any specific new recommendations on the use of such medications during pregnancy.

All of the studies that the FDA reviewed appeared to report differing outcomes on some level. Due to its inability to define any clear pattern, the FDA said its current recommendations on pain therapy will remain unchanged.

First and foremost, patients who are pregnant should always consult with their health care professional prior to taking any medication, including pain therapy. The health care professional will then discuss the benefits and risks of the specific medication regimen with the patient and come to a reasonable conclusion and treatment plan.

Women who are currently experiencing chronic and persistent pain and are also planning on becoming pregnant should discuss this with their health care practitioner. Pain treatment and therapy should be discussed and planned prior to becoming pregnant with a clear understanding of the risks involved.

Importantly, pharmacists, physicians, mid-level prescribers, and nurses should stay updated on the medication label pregnancy warnings of all medications when treating pregnant women.