The list of things pregnant women shouldn’t do is very long. They’re told not to eat sushi or unpasteurized cheese, to let someone else change the kitty litter, and to stay away from just about every over-the-counter drug. So what’s a pregnant woman to do when she has a headache or back pain? Can you take Tylenol while pregnant?

Can you take Tylenol while pregnant? Experts say…

Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, is a pain reliever and a fever reducer. It’s used to treat mild ailments like headaches, muscle aches, and fevers. According to FitPregnancy, Tylenol has long been viewed the safest pain reliever to use during pregnancy. Other common pain relievers like Advil or Aleve can decrease amniotic fluid levels, which can be dangerous for the baby.

But like any medication, Tylenol is not 100% safe.

Dr. Orly Avitzur, the Medical Director at Consumer Reports, suggests mothers first try non-drug measures to relieve pain. “Nondrug measures can go a long way towards alleviating minor symptoms without the risk.” She suggests massage, meditation, and relaxation exercises for tension headaches and back pain. If that doesn’t help, she advises that pregnant women only take Tylenol after consulting with their obstetrician.

There is a study that suggests children whose mothers used acetaminophen while pregnant have a higher risk of behavior problems. The study has scared some moms away from pain medications altogether, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. The lead author of study, Evie Stergiakouli, Ph.D., says her research shouldn’t prevent women from taking Tylenol when they need it. “Not treating severe pain or fever can harm both mothers and their unborn child,” Stergiakouli says. “Leaving fever untreated, for example, can lead to premature labor.”

Dr. Avitzur agrees. “Tylenol is still by far the safest option for most expectant mothers.”

So, the short answer seems to be yes — you can take Tylenol while pregnant, because there are some things that Tylenol can really help and reasons it’s better to take. So, check in with your doctor if you’re not sure, but generally according to all experts, it’s all good to use when it’s needed.

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(Image: iStock / AndreyPopov)