The short answer is no. Weigh the benefits versus the risks of taking statins while pregnant with your healthcare professional.
Statins are a class of drugs that lower LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels in the body by preventing production in the liver, where the majority of the body’s cholesterol is produced.
Dr. Stuart Spitalnic of Newport Hospital in Rhode Island notes, “Remember, cholesterol is not a disease, it is a risk factor for disease.”
In July 2021, the
The contraindication was removed as the choice to continue a statin should be patient-specific with both the healthcare professional and patient weighing the pros and cons of taking the medication.
The FDA has requested that manufacturers update their package inserts to reflect the change. Currently, there is no deadline by which all manufacturers must update their package inserts.
“There are some conflicting studies out there that statins can be safe during pregnancy, but since these studies are conflicting, it’s best to play it safe and stop the statins when trying to become pregnant and while pregnant,” notes Dr. Matthew Brennecke of the Rocky Mountain Wellness Clinic in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Dr. Brian Iriye of the High Risk Pregnancy Center in Las Vegas says that statins cross the placenta and have been associated with possible effects on the developing embryo.
“Inadvertent short-term exposure is unlikely to cause an increase in abnormal pregnancy outcomes,” he said. “However, due to the theoretical risk and limited benefits of these medications in pregnancy, most authorities recommend stopping this class of medication during pregnancy.”
So whether your pregnancy is unplanned, like 50 percent of pregnant people, or planned, you and your baby should be fine; just stop the statin as soon as possible.
Expecting mothers experience a natural rise in their cholesterol levels. While this may appear alarming, it shouldn’t be. The levels typically return to the usual range 6 weeks after giving birth.
“All cholesterol values rise in pregnancy; the degree depends on the stage of pregnancy,” says Dr. Kavita Sharma, a cardiologist and lipidologist with OhioHealth Heart and Vascular Physicians.
Most people will have a total cholesterol level of around 170 before pregnancy. This will fluctuate between 175 and 200 during early pregnancy, and go up to about 250 in late pregnancy, Sharma says.
According to American Heart Association (AHA), a total cholesterol level
Pregnant people experience a rise in LDL cholesterol, but their HDL, or “good,” cholesterol, which helps dispose of bad cholesterol, also rises to upward of 65 during late pregnancy. An HDL cholesterol level above 60 protects against heart disease.
“Cholesterol actually is a key chemical required for pregnancy, as a baby utilizes cholesterol for brain development,” Iriye said. “Additionally, appropriate levels of cholesterol are needed during your pregnancy to produce estrogen and progesterone, which are key hormones for pregnancy and development.”
One thing to consider is the gestational parent’s health before the cholesterol levels begin to rise. The risk for developing cardiovascular disease increases after menopause, the natural stage of aging when gestational parents can no longer bear children.
Spitalnic recommends not taking statins during pregnancy since the risk for developing high cholesterol is low before menopause. However, you should still consider eating nutrient-dense food and engaging in low impact physical activity approved by your healthcare professional.
According to most general medical guidelines, reducing your intake of saturated fats over a 6-month period should be your first course of action.
“In some women, diet and lifestyle recommendations are enough,” says Sharma. “Both before and after pregnancy, take care of one’s own health, with a heart-healthy diet and exercise habits.”
Brennecke agrees that eating a healthy diet is the first and foremost thing a person can do to keep their cholesterol levels down during pregnancy. This includes eating foods that are low in saturated fat and high in fiber, including fruits and vegetables and whole, unprocessed grains.
He says that whatever you eat, “your baby will get those same nutrients, or lack thereof.”
It’s also important that expecting parents get in some exercise to help manage cholesterol levels.
Given the concerns around the possible negative effects of statins on a developing fetus, discontinue any statin medications if you are trying to conceive or are pregnant. Instead, focus on eating healthful, nutrient-dense foods and increasing physical activity. Speak with your doctor about what types of physical activity are right for you.
If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor about whether or not you should continue taking statins.