Warning to pregnant women over drugs that can ‘increase risk of harm to baby’

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Warning to pregnant women over drugs that can ‘increase risk of harm to baby’

A COMMOM drug used to treat anxiety has been found to increase the risk of deformities in babies, experts have found. Pregabalin is prescribed b

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A COMMOM drug used to treat anxiety has been found to increase the risk of deformities in babies, experts have found.

Pregabalin is prescribed by doctors to patients suffering with anxiety, epilepsy and nerve pain.

Pregabalin capsules, commonly used to treat epilepsy, anxiety and nerve pain
Alamy

When prescribed for anxiety, it stops your brain from releasing the chemicals that make you feel anxious.

It comes as capsules, tablets or a liquid and can only be prescribed by a doctor.

The medication has now been associated with a “slightly increased” risk of deformities in babies, especially those affecting the nervous system, eye, face, urinary system, and genitals.

Doctors in the UK have been issued with fresh advice to not prescribe the drug to pregnant women, following the research on birth in Nordic countries.

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For those taking it, medics will advise that they avoid pregnancy with the use of contraception.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), last year ruled out pregabalin’s use in pregnant women, unless completely necessary.

Guidance now states that the drug should not be used “unless clearly necessary and only if the benefit to the patient clearly outweighs the potential risk to the foetus”.

It’s important that if you are worried about the drug then you speak to your GP and you should never stop taking prescribed medication without confirming with your doctor.


The Nordic research found that the rate of deformities was 5.6 per cent for those who use pregabalin in their first trimester.

This was compared to 4.1 per cent of those who did not use the drug or any other antiepileptic medication.

The study looked at 2,700 pregnancies when mothers used pregabalin in the first trimester between 2005 and 2016.

The research suggested that the number of pregnant women taking the drug had increased over the period and was mostly used in the first trimester.

People who take the drug usually have it in two or three separate doses – as directed by their GP.

The NHS states that if you have epilepsy, it’s likely that once your condition is under control you will continue to take pregabalin for many years.

What are the common side effects of pregabalin?

Common side effects usually happen in between one and 100 people and usually go away on their own.

They include:

  • headaches
  • feeling sleepy or dizzy
  • diarrhoea
  • mood change
  • feeling sick
  • blurred vision
  • erectile dysfunction
  • weight can
  • memory issues
  • swollen arms, hands, legs and feet

The NHS says that very few people have serious side effects from the medication but said you should see your GP if ay of the following occurs:

  • suicidal thoughts
  • thoughts of self harm
  • severe dizziness – causing you to pass out
  • hallucinations
  • toilet issues

“If you’re taking pregabalin for nerve pain or anxiety it’s likely that once your symptoms have gone you will continue to take it for several months to stop them coming back”, guidance states.

For women already prescribed the drug, the NHS says you should tell your doctor if you’re trying to get pregnant, you are pregnant or you are breastfeeding.

Dr Alison Cave, MHRA chief safety officer, said the agency had “carefully reviewed” the results and would “continue to keep the safety of pregabalin under close review”.

She said: “If you are taking pregabalin, you should continue to use effective contraception during treatment and avoid use in pregnancy unless advised by a doctor.

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“If you’re planning a pregnancy or if you think you may be pregnant, see your doctor to jointly decide the best course of action in your individual situation.

“It is important that you talk to your doctor before stopping pregabalin or making any changes to your usual medicines. Untreated pain, anxiety, or epilepsy could be harmful to you and your unborn baby.”

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