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Some Over-the-Counter Pain Drugs Linked to Severe Newborn Illness

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Most of the infants in the study who had pulmonary hypertension required ventilator support for an average of 11 days. About 35% of them were severely ill and required treatment with a device similar to a heart-lung machine. Two of the infants subsequently died.

While a high percentage of the sick children in the study had been exposed to NSAIDs, this does not mean that NSAIDs cause pulmonary hypertension, several experts caution. However, they advocate that pregnant women avoid this medication class.

"Pregnant women generally need to avoid NSAIDs in pregnancy," Steven Goldstein, MD, tells WebMD. "I encourage patients to use nonpharmacologic measures first for pain relief and also to see if acetaminophen [Tylenol] is effective." When you're pregnant, the first response to pain shouldn't be to reach in the medicine cabinet, says Goldstein, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University Medical Center.

"This is a good study of a relatively rare disease that shows how often patients underreport the medications they're taking," says Lynn Simpson, MD, the director of labor and delivery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. "The discrepancy between the [mother's] report and fetus' meconium is very striking."

The study was funded in part by a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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