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More information about any of these drugs can be found in the British National Formulary (BNF). The side effects of all drugs can be found in the leaflets provided by the manufacturers, so do read them before starting to take any medication. It is usually best to take painkillers with food to reduce any potential irritant effects on the stomach.


A non-opioid analgesic. Effective for mild pain. Usually starts to work after 15-60 minutes and lasts for approximately six hours. Suitable for use during pregnancy. Suitable for use whilst breast-feeding. Does not cause drowsiness.


A non-opioid analgesic and anti-inflammatory. Effective for mild pain particularly joint and muscle pain. Not usually recommended in pregnancy, especially during the last few weeks, so discuss with your doctor. Aspirin passes into breast milk and may cause problems such as Reyes Syndrome, so should not be taken while breast-feeding.

Paracetamol and codeine/aspirin and codeine

As above but with added codeine which is a mild opioid analgesic. Effective for mild to moderate pain. May cause constipation and/or drowsiness. No evidence of risk during pregnancy but if taken close to delivery may have an effect on breathing. Codeine passes into breast milk but only at a low level so is regarded as safe.


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Effective for pain, inflammation, stiffness and soft tissue injury. Usually starts to work after 1-2 hours, with duration of action of 5-10 hours. Ibuprofen gives its best effects with PGP if taken regularly for at least two weeks.
Not usually used in pregnancy and is also not recommended when breast-feeding, but an occasional dose is unlikely to cause a problem.
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