Whether you're expecting your first child or expanding your family, a safe and healthy pregnancy is crucial. This is why you take precautions before and during pregnancy to keep your unborn child healthy and reduce the risk of birth defects.
In every pregnancy, there’s a 3 to 5 percent risk of having a baby with a birth defect, according to the Organization of Teratology Information Specialist (OTIS).
Some birth defects can’t be prevented. But you can lower your child’s risk by taking prenatal vitamins, maintaining a healthy weight, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Your doctor might recommend that you don’t take certain medications while pregnant.
This is because certain medications can cause birth defects. If you're taking the prescription drug metformin, you might have concerns about how the drug will affect your pregnancy and the health of your unborn child.
What Is Metformin?
Metformin is an oral medication used to treat type 2 diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Type 2 diabetes is a condition that increases blood sugar levels. PCOS is an endocrine disorder that occurs in women of reproductive age.
It’s important to maintain a healthy blood sugar level while pregnant. This is one way to reduce the risk of birth defects and complications. Although metformin can control blood sugar, you may question whether this drug is safe to take during pregnancy. Before we get into this, let’s discuss how metformin is beneficial prior to pregnancy.
Metformin Before Conception
If you took metformin before getting pregnant, you might know that this drug can be a godsend — especially if you’ve had difficulty conceiving.
Having PCOS makes it harder to become pregnant. This condition can cause missed or irregular periods, and small cysts can grow on your ovaries. You may not ovulate every month, and if you don't ovulate, this can trigger infertility.
Since PCOS and higher insulin levels go hand-in-hand, your doctor may prescribe metformin to help regulate the amount of blood sugar in your body. Taking the medication can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and help you lose extra weight caused by PCOS.
But even if you're able to conceive more easily with the help of the medication, the question remains: Should you continue metformin after getting pregnant?
Is Metformin Safe During Pregnancy?
There’s good news: Whether you take metformin for the treatment of type 2 diabetes or PCOS, this medication is safe during pregnancy (“no evidence of risk in human pregnancy” according to the FDA). The medication has not been associated with an increased risk of birth defects or complications.
Since there is a low risk of complications with metformin, your doctor may encourage continuing use throughout the duration of your pregnancy. This decision is based on your medical history and what your doctor thinks is best for your health and the health of your baby.
If you’re pregnant and already taking insulin for type 2 diabetes, your doctor may prescribe metformin along with insulin to better control your blood sugar.
Your doctor may also prescribe this medication if you have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes. Risks include being overweight, having prediabetes, or developing gestational diabetes in prior pregnancies.
As a bonus, some studies suggest that taking metformin during the first trimester of pregnancy can lower the risk of a miscarriage.
Metformin has a very low risk of birth defects and complications for your baby, making this drug safe to take before and during pregnancy.
It’s also safe to take metformin while breast-feeding your child. Trace amounts of the medication might be detected in breast milk, but it will not harm or affect your infant’s growth and development.