Ozempic is a brand name for semaglutide, an injectable medication used to improve blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes. It belongs to a class of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists.
In recent years, Ozempic has also gained popularity as an off-label treatment for weight loss due to its appetite suppressing effects. However, its use during pregnancy has not been well studied and is generally not recommended.
Key Takeaways When Exposed to Semaglutide During Pregnancy
- Ozempic is commonly prescribed for type 2 diabetes and off-label for weight loss.
- Its safety during human pregnancy is unknown due to a lack of studies.
- Animal studies suggest Ozempic may increase the risks of birth defects and pregnancy loss.
- Women planning pregnancy should stop Ozempic at least 2 months before conception.
- Those who become pregnant on Ozempic should consult their provider right away.
- Ozempic is not recommended as a first-line treatment for gestational diabetes. Insulin is preferred.
- More research is needed to determine if Ozempic can be safely used while breastfeeding.
Always consult your healthcare provider before taking any medications during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. They can help weigh the risks and benefits and provide guidance on managing your health conditions.
How Ozempic Works
Ozempic works by mimicking a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that is released from the intestines after eating. GLP-1 helps control blood sugar levels by:
- Increasing insulin production from the pancreas
- Decreasing glucagon secretion from the pancreas
- Slowing digestion to reduce food absorption
By acting like GLP-1, Ozempic helps lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Ozempic also delays stomach emptying and increases feelings of fullness after eating. This leads to decreased appetite, calorie intake, and subsequent weight loss.
Concerns With Ozempic During Pregnancy
Currently, there is limited data on the safety of Ozempic during pregnancy. No adequate studies have been conducted in pregnant women.
However, animal studies suggest Ozempic may increase the risk of birth defects and pregnancy loss.
Animal Study Findings
In studies of pregnant rats and rabbits, semaglutide caused the following:
- Early pregnancy losses
- Decreased fetal body weight
- Skeletal abnormalities
- Major birth defects
These effects occurred at doses below the maximum recommended human dose.
Studies in pregnant cynomolgus monkeys also found increased structural abnormalities and pregnancy complications.
The specific reasons for these fetal effects are unknown. They may be related to the weight loss caused by semaglutide. Significant weight loss during pregnancy can negatively impact fetal development.
No Human Data
No well-controlled studies have evaluated Ozempic in pregnant women. The manufacturer does not recommend its use during pregnancy.
Due to the lack of human data, Ozempic’s potential risks to a human fetus are uncertain. However, the animal data raises concerns.
Due to the lack of comprehensive human studies and the potential risks involved, it is generally advised to avoid taking Ozempic during pregnancy. Some animal studies have shown that pregnant rats exposed to Semaglutide experienced congenital disabilities and pregnancy losses.
For this reason, health organizations advise avoiding Ozempic if pregnant or planning pregnancy.
FDA Pregnancy Warning
Due to the risks seen in animals, Ozempic has a Black Box Warning – the strongest FDA warning. The warning states:
- Ozempic may cause thyroid tumors including thyroid cancer.
- Ozempic may cause pancreatitis.
- Ozempic has not been studied in pregnant women. Based on animal data, Ozempic may cause fetal harm.
The FDA advises patients to tell their healthcare provider if they are pregnant or planning to become pregnant while using Ozempic.
Ozempic and Planning Pregnancy
Women planning a pregnancy should stop taking Ozempic due to the unknown but potential risks.
The manufacturer recommends stopping Ozempic at least 2 months before conceiving. This allows time for it to fully clear from the body.
Your healthcare provider can advise you on discontinuing Ozempic and alternative treatments to manage blood sugar before pregnancy.
Using Ozempic for Weight Loss Before Pregnancy
Some healthcare providers prescribe Ozempic off-label for weight loss.
Losing a modest amount of weight through diet, exercise, and medication before pregnancy may benefit those who are overweight or obese.
Potential benefits may include improved fertility and reduced pregnancy complications.
However, Ozempic itself should be stopped at least 2 months before trying to conceive. Its risks likely outweigh potential benefits during pregnancy.
After stopping Ozempic, lifestyle changes should be continued to encourage ongoing healthy weight management.
What If You Become Pregnant on Ozempic?
If you become pregnant while actively taking Ozempic, contact your healthcare provider right away.
Do not stop Ozempic on your own – your provider will advise you on safely discontinuing it.
They will closely monitor your pregnancy and watch for any potential complications.
Your provider may recommend additional ultrasounds or testing to check on the growing baby.
Using Ozempic for Diabetes in Pregnancy
For pregnant women with diabetes, blood sugar control is crucial for a healthy pregnancy.
However, Ozempic is not recommended as a first-line treatment during pregnancy.
Older drugs like insulin have more evidence for safe and effective use in pregnancy. Insulin does not cross the placenta, so it is unlikely to harm the developing baby.
If the benefits of Ozempic outweigh the potential risks, providers may prescribe it on a case-by-case basis. Frequent monitoring will be necessary.
But in most cases, insulin or other alternatives are preferred to manage gestational diabetes.
Ozempic and Breastfeeding
Little is known about the transfer of Ozempic into human breastmilk.
In lactating rats given semaglutide, low levels were detected in milk. But animal studies do not always predict effects in humans.
Since data are lacking, most providers recommend avoiding Ozempic while breastfeeding.
If a mother wishes to take Ozempic postpartum, she should first discuss the potential risks and benefits with her healthcare provider.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to take Ozempic when trying to get pregnant?
No, Ozempic is not considered safe for use while trying to get pregnant. Women planning a pregnancy should stop taking Ozempic at least 2 months beforehand due to potential risks to the fetus.
Can Ozempic make it harder to get pregnant?
Currently there is limited evidence that Ozempic directly impacts fertility. However, significant weight loss or low body weight can affect ovulation and fertility. Maintaining a healthy weight is optimal when trying to conceive.
Should I stop taking Ozempic as soon as I find out I’m pregnant?
Do not stop taking Ozempic on your own if you become pregnant accidentally. Speak to your healthcare provider about safely discontinuing it. Suddenly stopping medications can sometimes cause adverse effects.
Can I take Ozempic for weight loss during pregnancy?
No, Ozempic should not be used for weight loss during pregnancy. Intentionally losing weight during pregnancy can increase risks of complications and poor fetal growth. Always speak to your provider before taking any new medications or losing weight while pregnant.
Is Ozempic safe while breastfeeding?
There is insufficient data to recommend Ozempic while breastfeeding. The amount that may transfer into breastmilk and potential effects on a breastfed infant are unknown. Weigh the potential risks and benefits with your healthcare provider.
The Bottom Line of Using Semaglutide During Pregnancy
Ozempic should be avoided during pregnancy and conception due to potential risks suggested by animal studies. Women planning pregnancy should discuss stopping Ozempic with their healthcare provider at least 2 months beforehand. Those who become pregnant accidentally should not stop Ozempic on their own but instead seek guidance from their provider. More research is still needed to determine if Ozempic can be safely used during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Your healthcare provider can help determine the best treatment options for managing diabetes and weight before, during, and after pregnancy.