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NSAID use raises risk of birth defects

Taking NSAIDs while pregnant multiplies the risk of certain birth defects by up to five-fold, a new study suggests.

The Canadian researchers warned the risk could be highest in the first trimester - raising concerns over NSAID use in women of childbearing age.

Despite warnings of caution from manufacturers, NSAIDs are 'widely used' in pregnancy, the researchers said. As many as 5 per cent of pregnant women take the drugs, US research suggests.

The new study of 36,389 women found a malformation rate of 8.3 per cent in 1,258 NSAID users. Non-users had a rate of 7.0 per cent, although the difference did not reach significance. But use of NSAIDs during pregnancy did significantly increase respiratory system malformations 4.6-fold and cardiac septal closures 2.7-fold.

There was also a suggestion the overall malformation risk was higher in the first trimester than later in pregnancy.

Dr Anick Bèrard, a researcher on the study and associate professor of pharmacy at the University of Montreal, Canada, said: 'NSAIDs are commonly used during pregnancy, but there is controversy on the associated risk of congenital malformations.

'Our study suggests women who use NSAIDs may be at greater risk of having babies with malformations and confirms the known risks of cardiac septal defects in the newborns of NSAID-users.'

Dr Pete Budden, prescribing lead for Salford PCT, said GPs were currently most cautious at the end of pregnancy. 'To most GPs that will be news. GPs might take a look at it and think again.'

The research is to be presented in Lisbon later in the month.

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