Naproxen or naproxen sodium is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, a class of drugs that work by preventing the body from producing substances that cause pain and inflammation. It is typically prescribed for people suffering from conditions like arthritis that cause extreme swelling of the joints, connective tissues and soft tissues. Additionally, people may take over-the-counter naproxen to treat their headaches, fever and general muscle aches. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is important that you talk with your health care provider before taking any drug, including naproxen.
Use of Naproxen
Because naproxen has been demonstrated to be especially effective at addressing more severe inflammation, it has become commonly prescribed for different types of arthritis: osteoarthritis, or arthritis caused by the deterioration of the joints; rheumatoid arthritis, or arthritis caused by an inflammation of the joints' lining; and juvenile arthritis, arthritis affecting children. Naproxen is also often prescribed to treat ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that involves spinal inflammation. Your physician may also recommend naproxen to treat bursitis, an inflammation of your shoulder; menstrual cramps; or tendonitis, an inflammation of your connective tissue often caused by overuse.
If you are currently being treated by a physician for a chronic condition like arthritis, it is very important that you discuss your plans for pregnancy with him. Inform your health care professionals as soon as you know you are pregnant so that the needs of your developing baby can be considered from the beginning. Additionally, if you occasionally take naproxen, even over-the-counter naproxen, at the suggestion of your physician, discuss your pregnancy with him.
Dangers of Naproxen
While naproxen has proved to be quite effective at reducing inflammation due to injury or chronic conditions like arthritis, it is not without its own set of dangers and precautions. Because of this, if you have been prescribed naproxen you will likely have to make frequent visits to your physician so blood work can both demonstrate that the medication is working correctly and ensure that you are not experiencing any side effects.
According to the Mayo Clinic, naproxen may increase your risk of experiencing a cardiac event such as a heart attack or stroke, especially if you have experienced problems of this nature in the past. If you have recently had a coronary artery bypass graft, or CABG, you should not take naproxen. Your risk of experiencing a cardiac event increases the longer you take naproxen. If you experience any heart-related symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or vision or balance disturbances while taking naproxen, seek help immediately.
Naproxen is associated with serious gastrointestinal problems like ulcers, bleeding and even perforation, or the formation of a hole. These problems can occur at any time, but are more likely to occur in adults over age 65. Contact your health care provider promptly if you experience any symptoms of gastrointestinal bleeding, such as black or tarry bowel movements or coughing up blood.
In some people, naproxen may cause serious skin problems. If you experience any unusual skin reactions while taking naproxen, such as blistering, ulcerations, lesions or peeling skin, contact your health care provider.
To help prevent any of these serious potential side effects from occurring, it is important that you inform any health care providers about your naproxen regimen. Do not take any other drugs or supplements, including over-the-counter drugs, without first consulting your health care provider.
Naproxen and Pregnancy
According to a study published in the September 2005 issue of the "American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology," women's usage of over-the-counter drugs during pregnancy is extremely common. The incidence of pregnant women taking NSAIDs has increased steadily since 1980, when a correlation between pregnant women's aspirin use and intracranial bleeding in the newborn was demonstrated in a study. Based on these 2005 findings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called for further study in over-the-counter drugs and their impact on pregnant women and their developing fetuses. The CDC's National Birth Defects Prevention Study is ongoing as of 2011.
Naproxen has been demonstrated to possibly cause harm to the fetus during pregnancy, especially during the last three months. Drugs.com reports that in a mother pregnant with twins who had been undergoing a naproxen treatment regimen to prevent early labor, both twins showed high levels of naproxen in their bloodstreams. Unfortunately, both twins also were found to be suffering from pulmonary hypertension and one infant did die as a result. Researchers speculated that the naproxen the mother was taking blocked the hormone necessary for proper fetal lung development.
Because of its demonstrated effect on fetal development, naproxen has been placed in class "C" by the FDA, meaning that naproxen has been shown to be harmful to developing fetuses and should only be taken by pregnant women when there is no other alternative and their health care providers have determined that the benefits of naproxen outweigh the risks.
If you are pregnant, you should not take naproxen in any form without the express direction of a health care provider who has fully considered your pregnancy and your condition that requires a medication regimen.
Possible Alternatives to Naproxen
In a study published in the January 2010 issue of "Canadian Family Physician," study co-author Malaika Babb states that no analgesics have been shown to significantly increase problems with fetal development, although she suggests that even small doses of NSAIDs should be avoided in late pregnancy. Instead, pregnant women who are experiencing pain should focus on acetaminophen as a treatment whenever possible.
If you are experiencing pain during your pregnancy, talk with your health care provider before you take any medication, including acetaminophen. Together, you can develop a regimen that will be safest for your developing baby.