Arthritis is accompanied by joint pain, tenderness and stiffness. Joint pain is usually relieved through medications that we get in over-the-counter form or with prescription. However, when you’re pregnant things start to change. You can just pick up some medication and start taking it to alleviate the pain because it could potentially harm the baby. What about arthritis medications? Are they safe to use during pregnancy? Keep reading this article to find out.
Safety of common arthritis medications during pregnancy
Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) conducted a review of studies led by Christina Chambers, Ph.D. The study inspected whether current agents for treating arthritis are safe for consumption during pregnancy.
Findings of the study were published in the Official Publication of The College of Family Physicians of Canada showed that while some medications for arthritis joint pain are generally safe to use, others can potentially induce various birth defects. Take a look below.
Several observational studies have been conducted over 400 women with inflammatory bowel disease treated with sulfasalazine during pregnancy. Results of these studies showed that intake of sulfasalazine wasn’t associated with birth defects. Even Arthritis.org listed sulfasalazine in “safe to use” category as it doesn’t cause any effects on fetus.
In a prospective controlled study conducted by OTIS to inspect the effects of leflunomide on pregnant women with rheumatoid arthritis, 43 leflunomide-exposed women were compared with 78 pregnant women with RA, who didn’t take this medication. Results showed that infants exposed to leflunomide were significantly smaller than children of mothers who didn’t take this medication for RA.
Furthermore, Arthritis.org listed leflunomide into “drugs that are off-limits during pregnancy” group due to heightened risk of birth defects and miscarriage.
Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenl)
Although studies that involved chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine showed increased risk of spontaneous abortion or preterm delivery, scientists point out these findings are associated with maternal underlying disease rather than medications themselves. Arthritis.org lists these medications as generally safe to use, but it’s not a good idea to take these drugs when breastfeeding if your child develops jaundice.
Reports of about 90 babies born to women treated with azathioprine for rheumatoid arthritis have been published and they did not report increased risk of fetal death or birth defects. Furthermore, recently completely prospective controlled study about the use of azathioprine didn’t document increased teratogenic risk either.
Also, Arthritis.org lists this medication on “safe to use” list.
Now that you know how safe the most common arthritis medications are, we will take a look at other frequently used drugs for arthritis and see whether you can take them or not.
The medications listed below should not be taken as they could potentially lead to birth defects or miscarriage:
- Chlorambucil (Leukeran)
- Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)
- Methotrexate (Rheumatrex)
- Warfarin (Coumadin)
Safe to use
Medications listed below are generally considered safe to use and do not harm baby’s development throughout pregnancy week by week:
- Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune)
- Heparin (Calciparine, Liquaemin)
This list includes medications without reported adverse effects; however there also were no studies that would inspect their safety for pregnant women and their babies:
NOTE: Ideally, you should consult your healthcare provider during the first trimester of your pregnancy and ask what medications you should use to alleviate arthritis pain without harming the baby.
Relieving arthritis pain
Even though there’s no cure that could magically take arthritis and joint pain away, it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it rather than taking medications. Below, you can see some tips:
- Invest in comfortable shoes – they aren’t only good for your feet, but make you exert less force which results with decreased pain
- Apply topical creams or gels on affected areas
- Soak in a warm bath
- Do low impact exercises
- Consider herbal supplements – they are made of natural ingredients and generally do not induce side effects. As always, consult your healthcare provider before you do so.
- Add turmeric to your dishes – it’s safe to use during pregnancy and it has potential to reduce arthritis pain
- Meditate to cope with the pain better
- Maintain healthy weight by trying not to gain more weight at certain stage of your pregnancy
- Avoid spending too much time in bed as sedentary lifestyle can aggravate arthritis pain
- Periodically tilt your neck from side to side, stretch your legs, and change the position of your hands.
During pregnancy it is very important to bear in mind what types of arthritis medications you’re using. While some of them are considered as safe to use, others can cause a wide array of adverse effects including miscarriage or birth defects. Before deciding to take medications or herbal supplements consult your doctor. In the meantime, there are many things you can do at home to relieve severity of joint pain you experience.