If you have narcolepsy, your symptoms may worsen during pregnancy. You may need to do things like nap more frequently and consider reducing your work hours.

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Narcolepsy affects approximately 1 in 2,000 people. It causes episodes of sudden drowsiness or sleep during the day.

When people with narcolepsy try to become pregnant, doctors may recommend stopping the medications they have been using to manage their narcolepsy symptoms.

Medication changes, alongside the emotional and physical changes of pregnancy, can make people with narcolepsy feel extremely fatigued during pregnancy. In many cases, a vaginal delivery is still possible.

Learn more about narcolepsy.

A 2013 study including 12 European countries found no significant difference in pregnancy outcomes for people with narcolepsy.

Although narcolepsy itself may not negatively affect a pregnancy, it can still have an impact.

For example, if you experience cataplexy – sudden loss of muscle tone due to narcolepsy, you may suddenly fall.

Fatigue is a typical part of pregnancy for most people, but narcolepsy can worsen it. Extreme fatigue from unmedicated narcolepsy may make it difficult to function normally or complete daily tasks.

You’ll typically have the same narcolepsy symptoms while pregnant. However, symptoms may become more severe during pregnancy, especially if you stop taking medications for narcolepsy.

Common symptoms of narcolepsy include:

Some research suggests individuals with narcolepsy may have higher rates of gestational diabetes and anemia during pregnancy.

More research is still needed to understand any connection between narcolepsy and these conditions, but it’s well established that gestational diabetes and anemia can negatively affect a developing baby.

Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are more likely to be over 9 pounds at birth, which can mean a more difficult delivery. These babies are also more likely to develop obesity or type 2 diabetes later in life.

Babies born to mothers with anemia are more likely to have a low birth weight and be born prematurely. They’re also more likely to have developmental delays involving thinking, emotion, and behavior.

Your doctor may advise you to stop taking your narcolepsy-related medications when trying to conceive and during pregnancy for the safety of your child.

If you decide not to take medications during pregnancy or your symptoms persist with medications, your doctor may suggest:

  • not driving
  • taking more frequent naps
  • getting regular exercise

Many people with narcolepsy can have healthy vaginal births. One 2022 study even found that less than 1% of people with narcolepsy experience cataplexy during delivery.

If you’re concerned about experiencing narcolepsy symptoms during labor, don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor. You can discuss your options, including cesarean delivery, and ways to reduce any risks during delivery.

Doctors may recommend not restarting narcolepsy medications while nursing.

However, the extra fatigue from not taking narcolepsy medications can make caring for a newborn harder. New parents with narcolepsy may need extra support in the postpartum period.

Is narcolepsy in pregnancy considered high risk?

According to a 2013 study, individuals with narcolepsy had similar birthing outcomes than those without the condition. Narcolepsy will not typically cause a pregnancy to be considered high risk.

I’m pregnant; why do I keep falling asleep?

Even if you do not have narcolepsy, high fatigue levels are very common during pregnancy. Your body is going through many physical changes, not to mention emotional changes.

Reasons for feeling more tired during pregnancy include higher amounts of hormones, interrupted sleep, and increased stress and pain levels.

What are the five signs of narcolepsy?

Five common signs of narcolepsy include:

If you have narcolepsy, symptoms might worsen during pregnancy, especially if you stop taking narcolepsy medications.

You may need more frequent naps and a lower workload. You may also need to not drive during your pregnancy. Typical labor and delivery are still possible for many people, however.

If you have narcolepsy and are considering becoming pregnant, talk with a qualified healthcare professional. They can advise whether any changes are needed to your medications, discuss potential complications, and ways to have a healthy and happy baby.