Exposure to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs during pregnancy and the risk of selected birth defects: a prospective cohort study

PLoS One. 2011;6(7):e22174. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022174. Epub 2011 Jul 18.


Background: Since use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) during pregnancy is common, small increases in the risk of birth defects may have significant implications for public health. Results of human studies on the teratogenic risks of NSAIDs are inconsistent. Therefore, we evaluated the risk of selected birth defects after prenatal exposure to prescribed and over-the-counter NSAIDs.

Methods and findings: We used data on 69,929 women enrolled in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study between 1999 and 2006. Data on NSAID exposure were available from a self-administered questionnaire completed around gestational week 17. Information on pregnancy outcome was obtained from the Medical Birth Registry of Norway. Only birth defects suspected to be associated with NSAID exposure based upon proposed teratogenic mechanisms and previous studies were included in the multivariable logistic regression analyses. A total of 3,023 women used NSAIDs in gestational weeks 0-12 and 64,074 women did not report NSAID use in early pregnancy. No associations were observed between overall exposure to NSAIDs during pregnancy and the selected birth defects separately or as a group (adjusted odds ratio 0.7, 95% confidence interval 0.4-1.1). Associations between maternal use of specific types of NSAIDs and the selected birth defects were not found either, although an increased risk was seen for septal defects and exposure to multiple NSAIDs based on small numbers (2 exposed cases; crude odds ratio 3.9, 95% confidence interval 0.9-15.7).

Conclusions: Exposure to NSAIDs during the first 12 weeks of gestation does not seem to be associated with an increased risk of the selected birth defects. However, due to the small numbers of NSAID-exposed infants for the individual birth defect categories, increases in the risks of specific birth defects could not be excluded.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects*
  • Congenital Abnormalities / epidemiology*
  • Congenital Abnormalities / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal