In every pregnancy, a woman starts out with a 3-5% chance of having a baby with a birth defect. This is called her background risk. This sheet talks about whether exposure to naproxen may increase the risk for birth defects over that background risk. This information should not take the place of medical care and advice from your healthcare provider.
What is naproxen?
Naproxen is a medication that is commonly used to relieve pain and for the temporary reduction of fever. Some brand names for naproxen include Aleve®, Anaprox®, Napralen®, and Naprosyn®.
Naproxen is in a class of medicines called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Other medications in this class include aspirin and ibuprofen (see MotherToBaby fact sheet on Ibuprofen and Pregnancy at https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/ibuprofen-pregnancy/pdf/).
I take naproxen regularly at high doses for my medical condition. Can this make it more difficult for me to become pregnant?
It is unclear how naproxen use may affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant. Some studies suggest that naproxen and NSAIDs in general might make it more difficult to become pregnant. However, this seems more likely when someone is using NSAIDs often or over a long period of time.
Women who are trying to become pregnant may wish to avoid the use of naproxen or other NSAIDs, unless they are being used for the treatment of a serious, ongoing condition. In such cases, it will be important to talk with your healthcare providers before making changes to your treatment plan.
I am taking naproxen, but I would like to stop taking it before becoming pregnant. How long does the drug stay in my body?
The amount of time it takes for a medication to be cleared from the body will be different from person to person. However, in healthy adults it can take about 4 days, on average, for nearly all of naproxen to be cleared from the body.
Can taking naproxen early in pregnancy increase my chance for miscarriage?
Studies have suggested that the use of NSAID’s may increase the chance of miscarriage. NSAID’s like naproxen, ibuprofen and others reduce prostaglandins in the body. Taking NSAID’s over a long time period may increase the chance of miscarriage in some women by reducing prostaglandins.
If you took an NSAID once or twice before you knew you were pregnant, you should not be overly concerned, however, if you take it daily, talk to your healthcare providers about whether you should continue. Some women may benefit from staying on the NSAID.
Does naproxen cause birth defects when taken in the first trimester?
The results from a few large studies on NSAIDs, including naproxen, did not show an increased chance for birth defects.*
A small increased chance for heart defects has been reported in some studies looking at naproxen and other NSAIDS in early pregnancy. Other factors, such as the health condition for which naproxen was taken, could also be the cause. A small association with cleft lip and palate (i.e. opening in the lip or roof of the mouth) and naproxen use has also been reported but cannot be proven. In another study where 23 pregnant women took naproxen every day to help treat lupus and arthritis, there were no birth defects seen in their children.
Can I take naproxen in my third trimester?
Naproxen is not recommended for use in the third trimester of pregnancy. The use of an NSAID in the third trimester, especially after the 30th week, is associated with a chance of premature closure of the ductus arteriosus (a vessel near the fetal heart that stays open during pregnancy and closes soon after birth). The closure of this vessel too early can lead to high blood pressure in the baby’s lungs, called pulmonary hypertension. Also, the use of NSAIDs in the third trimester can slow down labor or cause low levels of amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios).
The use of naproxen during the third trimester should only be done under the direction of your healthcare provider. If treatment with naproxen is needed, your healthcare provider may talk with you about screening tests, such as ultrasounds. It is recommended to use the lowest dose that effectively treats your condition in order to limit exposure to the baby.
Can I take naproxen while I breastfeed?
Naproxen has been found to enter breast milk in small amounts. Naproxen stays in breast milk longer than other NSAIDs. Based on available information, it is unlikely that naproxen use would be harmful for a breastfeeding baby. However, there is one report of blood-related health problems in a breastfed infant whose mother took naproxen along with another medicine. It is not known if naproxen or the other medicine caused this infant’s problems. Due to this concern and the long time naproxen stays in breast milk, it may be best to take a different NSAID, especially if breastfeeding a newborn that is less than a month old or a premature baby (born before 37 weeks). Talk to your healthcare provider about your breastfeeding questions.
What if the father of the baby takes naproxen?
There are no studies looking at possible risks to a pregnancy when the father takes naproxen. In general, exposures that fathers have are unlikely to increase risks to a pregnancy. For more information, please see the MotherToBaby fact sheet Paternal Exposures at https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/paternal-exposures-pregnancy/pdf/.*
* Section Updated May 2020
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