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Painkiller may double risk of miscarriage

Women who take any amount of ibuprofen in early pregnancy could have more than double the risk of miscarriage, new research suggests.

A class of painkillers known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) increase the risk of miscarriage in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, experts said.

Previous studies have shown inconsistent results when examining the effect of NSAIDs on pregnancy.

The new study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), examined a number of commonly-used NSAIDs including ibuprofen, naproxen and diclofenac.

The research found that women who took any type, and any dose, of NSAID had a 2.4 times higher risk of miscarriage than women who did not miscarry.

Overall, 4,705 cases of miscarriage were analysed, of which 352 (7.5pc) involved women taking NSAIDs.

Women in the entire sample were aged 15 to 45, and they were compared with women of a similar age who did not suffer a miscarriage (of which 2.6pc had been exposed to NSAIDs).

The highest risk was for diclofenac when used alone, while the lowest was for a drug called rofecoxib, which was withdrawn in 2004.

Dr Anick Berard, from the University of Montreal, who worked on the study, said: "Given that the use of non-aspirin NSAIDs during early pregnancy has been shown to increase the risk of major congenital malformations and that our results suggest a class effect on the risk of clinically detected spontaneous abortion, non-aspirin NSAIDs should be used with caution during pregnancy."

Janet Fyle, professional policy adviser at the Royal College of Midwives said: "We need to advise women, as midwives often do, to avoid buying over the counter medication for pain relief. If a pregnant woman does need to take any analgesia, then paracetamol would be appropriate.