The information provided below is for readers based in the United States of America. Readers outside of the United States of America should seek the information from local sources.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition, meaning that it develops from wear and tear over time. It is most common in people who are above age 50, but being overweight/obese, or participating in high impact sports increases the chances that you could develop the condition at a younger age, and thus be affected while you are pregnant.

How common is osteoarthritis in pregnancy?

Osteoarthritis is fairly common in pregnant women with elevated body mass index (BMI), especially in those who are obese (BMI 30 or higher) and who have given birth at least twice.

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?

Osteoarthritis is diagnosed based on presence of symptoms and signs such as pain, tenderness, stiffness, and loss of flexibility in joints as demonstrated by your medical history and physical examination, followed up by imaging studies, such as X rays and magnetic resonance imaging, and by blood tests and analysis of fluid drawn from the affected joints through a needle.

Does osteoarthritis cause problems during pregnancy?

Osteoarthritis symptoms such as pain, tenderness, and stiffness can worsen when your weight increases as pregnancy advances.

Does osteoarthritis during pregnancy cause problems for the baby?

Osteoarthritis does not cause particular problems for the baby, but there is an increased risk of falling, which in turn can be extremely dangerous for the baby.

What to consider about taking medications when you are pregnant:

  • The risks to yourself and your baby if you do not treat the osteoarthritis
  • The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are pregnant
  • The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are breastfeeding

What should I know about using medication to treat osteoarthritis during pregnancy?

Medications used for osteoarthritis include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are used against pain and inflammation, and which should be avoided during the third trimester. Acetaminophen and paracetamol, used for pain, are thought to be safe during pregnancy. Additionally, an antidepressant drug called duloxetine may be given for chronic pain. It is not thought to be dangerous during pregnancy, although studies have been limited. Another approach to controlling osteoarthritis is to inject corticosteroid medications into the affected joints. Corticosteroids are generally considered safe during pregnancy.

Who should NOT stop taking medication for osteoarthritis in pregnancy?

Pregnant women who need acetaminophen or paracetamol to reduce pain from osteoarthritis do not need to stop taking the drug, because these drugs do not pose great danger.

What should I know about choosing a medication for osteoarthritis in pregnancy?

You may find Pregistrys expert reports about the individual medications to treat osteoarthritis here. Additional information can also be found in the sources listed at the end of this report.

What should I know about taking a medication for osteoarthritis when I am breastfeeding?

Acetaminophen, paracetamol, and NSAIDs are thought to be relatively safe in mothers who breastfeed, and duloxetine is not known to be harmful in the setting of breastfeeding although more studies are needed to know this for sure. Corticosteroids injected into joints generally do not spread through the body in very large amounts, so they are also thought to be fairly safe during breastfeeding.

What alternative therapies exist besides medications to treat osteoarthritis during pregnancy?

Physical therapy and specialized exercise programs can go a long way in alleviating the effects of osteoarthritis. Heat or ice may also help to reduce pain in some patients.

What can I do for myself and my baby when I have osteoarthritis during pregnancy?

Stay in close contact with your obstetrician, rheumatologist, and physical therapist. Work with your doctors to choose a treatment strategy that minimizes your paid with minimal risk to the developing baby.

Resources for osteoarthritis during pregnancy:

For more information about osteoarthritis during pregnancy, contact http://www.womenshealth.gov/ (800-994-9662 [TDD: 888-220-5446]) or read the following articles:

  • Mayo Clinic: Osteoarthritis
  • Arthritis Foundation: Arthritis and Pregnancy


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General information

It is very common for women to worry about having a miscarriage or giving birth to a child with a birth defect while they are pregnant. Many decisions that women make about their health during pregnancy are made with these concerns in mind.

For many women these concerns are very real. As many as 1 in 5 pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and 1 in 33 babies are born with a birth defect. These rates are considered the background population risk, which means they do not take into consideration anything about the health of the mom, the medications she is taking, or the family history of the mom or the baby’s dad. A number of different things can increase these risks, including taking certain medications during pregnancy.

It is known that most medications, including over-the-counter medications, taken during pregnancy do get passed on to the baby. Fortunately, most medicines are not harmful to the baby and can be safely taken during pregnancy. But there are some that are known to be harmful to a baby’s normal development and growth, especially when they are taken during certain times of the pregnancy. Because of this, it is important to talk with your doctor or midwife about any medications you are taking, ideally before you even try to get pregnant.

If a doctor other than the one caring for your pregnancy recommends that you start a new medicine while you are pregnant, it is important that you let them know you are pregnant.

If you do need to take a new medication while pregnant, it is important to discuss the possible risks the medicine may pose on your pregnancy with your doctor or midwife. They can help you understand the benefits and the risks of taking the medicine.

Ultimately, the decision to start, stop, or change medications during pregnancy is up to you to make, along with input from your doctor or midwife. If you do take medications during pregnancy, be sure to keep track of all the medications you are taking.

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