A research study recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal - and picked up by numerous news outlets, including TIME magazine - suggested a link between the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (such as ibuprofen, indomethacin, ketoprofen, etc.) and the risk of miscarriage. The researchers looked at women who had a reported miscarriage and connected that to those who had filled a prescription for a NSAID around the time of their miscarriage.

This kind of result can cause a lot of anxiety for women - especially those who have previously suffered a miscarriage - so it needs to be commented on. There are several problems with this study and women who are possibly pregnant, or hoping to be, should be aware of this.

First: The study design would never be able to demonstrate cause-and-effect. That is, even if women did take a NSAID and had a miscarriage, there is no way we would absolutely be able to say it was because of the NSAID. Unfortunately, miscarriage can be caused by many things, which is part of the problem.

Second: Many women - especially if they don’t know they are pregnant, or they are very early on in their pregnancy - may take over-the-counter forms of NSAIDs (like ibuprobfen) for things like headaches. We would never know about these women and they would not be counted in a study like this.

Third: Given that most NSAIDs are taken without a prescription, those who are taking them as a prescription drug may in fact have a medical complication that does impact on pregnancy or possibly increases their chance of miscarriage, so the cause of miscarriage may be entirely unrelated to the actual NSAID used.

What is important to remember is that taking any medication in pregnancy is a balance of risks and benefits. While women may not want to take medications in pregnancy, they may have a medical condition that could adversely affect their health or that of the baby’s if they were not to take their medicine. Diabetes and elevated blood pressure are good examples of such situations. It is always important when planning a pregnancy to try to reduce exposure to toxins or unsafe medications or to ensure that you are on the appropriate or adequate amount of any given medication. Alternate drugs might also be considered for certain ailments, for example, acetominophen as opposed to ibuprofen for head-aches.

Yes, it’s true that there are a number of things that can have a negative affect on your pregnancy - but don’t let misguided research studies be one of them.