Can You Take Excedrin When Pregnant?

Find Out Which Headache Medicine Is Right for You

When a bad headache—or worse, a migraine—afflicts you when you’re pregnant, you may wonder if relief is even possible. Medications do exist that are safe to take while pregnant, but experts debate as to whether Excedrin is one of them. A popular pain reliever, Excedrin comes in several different varieties, including Extra Strength Excedrin, Excedrin Migraine and Excedrin Tension Headache. Each variation of Excedrin contains some or all of the following ingredients: acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine. Find out which, if any, Excedrin products are OK for you.

To Take or Not to Take

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Acetaminophen is regarded by physicians as safe to take during pregnancy. However, aspirin, which is also found in Excedrin varieties, is associated with Reye’s syndrome. Reye’s syndrome is a rare disorder that most typically affects children, causing brain and liver damage. While aspirin is placed in category C by the FDA for pregnancy, which means that not enough testing has occurred to rule out negative effects, occasionally, your doctor may recommend a category C medication when the benefits outweigh the risks. However, the aspirin found in Excedrin is considered to be in pregnancy category D if taken during the third trimester, which means testing has revealed a proven risk to the developing baby. Therefore, doctors recommend not taking Excedrin products that contain aspirin, particularly in the third trimester.

Alternative Medications

Instead, consider unadulterated acetaminophen for headaches or Excedrin Tension Headache, which omits aspirin as an ingredient altogether. Caffeine is still present in Excedrin products, and while pregnant women should limit their intake of caffeine, in small amounts, it's considered acceptable. Consult your doctor as to whether she recommends any form of Excedrin given the potential—and even serious—drawbacks.

Natural Approaches

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You can also combat headache and migraine pain by using a natural approach. Try a cold ice pack, which works better than heat on migraines. Additionally, massage and other relaxation techniques such as tai chi can work wonders in reducing stress associated with tension headaches. Peppermint and lavender oil offer added benefits when used in conjunction with a gentle massage. Finally, consult your doctor about taking supplements, such as magnesium, and herbs like feverfew and butterbur, as natural alternatives during pregnancy.