Is Tylenol safe for pregnancy? Despite some scientists urging caution, it's still safe to take a normal dose

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Is Tylenol safe for pregnancy? Despite some scientists urging caution, it's still safe to take a normal dose
© AndreyPopov/Getty Images Is Tylenol safe for pregnancy? Despite some scientists urging caution, it’s still safe to take a normal dose

  • Doctors consider Tylenol to be the safest over-the-counter pain medicine to take while pregnant.
  • Despite a paper urging caution, experts still recommend normal doses of Tylenol for pregnant people.
  • Other pain relievers such as ibuprofen and aspirin are not recommended during pregnancy.

All the physical changes that come with pregnancy also come with new aches and pains. Whether it’s headaches, fever, lower back pain, or aching feet, you don’t have to grit your teeth through the pain.

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“There’s no reason why someone should be in pain and suffer while pregnant,” says Laura Laursen, a practicing OB-GYN in Chicago. “There are things we can do medically to bring you relief that are safe.”

Yes, Tylenol is safe during pregnancy

One of those medications is Tylenol, aka acetaminophen. Compared with other over-the-counter pain relievers, Tylenol is considered the safest pain medicine you can take while pregnant.

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The Baylor College of Medicine Obstetrics & Gynecology recommends it for common pregnancy symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Pains from a stretched uterus
  • Fever
  • General minor aches and pains
  • Flu and cold symptoms

“Tylenol is one of the front-line pain meds that we use during pregnancy,” Laursen says. “It’s safe from your first trimester through the third.”

Pregnant people can take regular Tylenol doses

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Laursen says that the dose of Tylenol for pregnant women is the same as for adults who are not pregnant. Take no more than 3,000 milligrams of acetaminophen every 24 hours.

For regular strength Tylenol, that’s the equivalent of 2 tablets — at 325 milligrams per tablet — every 4 to 6 hours. And always review proper dosing guidelines on the medicine container.

Also, be aware that acetaminophen is often found in other medications, such as over-the-counter cold, cough, and flu medications. So if you’re taking multiple medications, whether prescribed or over-the-counter, look for acetaminophen listed as an ingredient to make sure you don’t take too much in one day.

For more information about what you can or cannot take, see our article on how to treat a cold when you’re pregnant. For allergies, you can take Benadryl. If you’re not sure if you have allergies, the cold, or the flu, learn how to tell the difference.

Too much acetaminophen can cause severe liver damage, whether you’re pregnant or not. That’s because your liver processes the drug into a form your body can use. Too much can overstress it and cause acute liver failure. In fact, acetaminophen overdoses account for an estimated 50% of overdose-related cases of acute liver failure in the US.

There’s still no link between Tylenol use and adverse birth outcomes

In 2021, a group of scientists urged caution against the drug, citing studies linking acetaminophen use during pregnancy to adverse developmental outcomes.

However, in a response to the paper, other scientists and healthcare experts pointed out limitations and problems in the studies used in the paper and urged “against recommending such precautionary measures” until more accurate data becomes available.

In another response, researchers said that the risks associated with untreated illness in a pregnant individual might pose more danger to a developing fetus than exposure to acetaminophen.

This 2021 rebuttal is just one of many attempts by the medical community to set the record straight. In 2017, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine Publication Committee also scrutinized a number of studies linking acetaminophen to behavioral issues. It released a response that pointed out the limits of the studies for any would-be mothers concerned about the results.

“The two major governing bodies in the field have analyzed these studies and determined that they were of very poor quality and did not have proper quality controls and did not use good scientific method,” Laursen says.

Important: The company that makes Tylenol, Johnson & Johnson, previously told Insider that it recommends using the pain reliever as directed. Tylenol’s label says that those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult with a health professional before taking the medication.

Moreover, The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has not changed its recommendation that acetaminophen is safe for pregnant women to use in moderation and after consulting with their doctors.

“Women should not be worried. Tylenol is safe during pregnancy. Hard stop,” Laursen says.

Avoid ibuprofen and aspirin in pregnancy

When it comes to over-the-counter pain relievers, Tylenol is most recommended. Other pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen are not recommended by doctors for typical pregnancy aches and pains.

Ibuprofen is off limits completely, Laursen says. Likewise, aspirin is not recommended, unless prescribed by your doctor. For example, a doctor may recommend a small daily dose of aspirin to some women to decrease their risk of preeclampsia. But if you’re pregnant, don’t take aspirin without consulting your doctor first.

Try med-free, alternative pain treatments

If you really don’t want to take a Tylenol, or it’s not managing your pain, you can try other methods to get some pain relief during pregnancy. Laursen recommends:

  • For lower back pain, use a heat or support belt
  • For joint discomfort, try physical therapy or yoga

Ultimately, your treatment plan depends on what’s right for your needs.

Insider’s takeaway

Tylenol, or acetaminophen, is the safest pain reliever that pregnant people can take to relieve symptoms of cold or flu, headache, fever, or aches and pains.

Despite a 2021 paper urging caution about the drug, many healthcare professionals and researchers still say that acetaminophen is safe for pregnant people and recommend taking a normal dose under the guidance of a doctor.

Other pain relievers like ibuprofen and aspirin are not recommended for use by pregnant women.

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