Prednisone Use During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

by on April 18, 2012

A lot of pregnant mothers are quite apprehensive about taking medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding. While the main goal of these chemical compounds is to help promote health or treat a medical condition, its teratogenic effect (the adverse effects of taking chemical products on the developing fetus often leading to congenital anomalies) cannot be discounted. A prudent healthcare provider must weigh the benefits against the potential risks before prescribing prednisone for pregnant or breastfeeding patients.

Prednisone is a highly beneficial compound that is used for the management of various medical conditions such as autoimmune disorders, asthma and dermatologic conditions. These synthetic corticosteroids are used to manage inflammation and suppress immune responses. Physicians prescribe prednisone in different doses depending on the illness that is being treated.

Potential risks of Prednisone during the first trimester of pregnancy

Some studies suggest that pregnant patients taking prednisone during the first trimester have a small increased risk for their baby to develop oral clefts. This condition develops as a result of the incomplete closure of the lip or palate during the fetal development. Generally, oral cleft is a rare condition that affects 1 out of 1,000 births but with oral prednisone the risk increases to 6 out of 1,000, especially when taken during the first trimester.

A number of studies have not shown that exposure to oral prednisone increases the risk of congenital anomalies. The potential risk of prednisone during first trimester, if any, could be very negligible.

Again, it is recommended that you consult your physician before taking, stopping or changing your medication.

What are the possible harmful effects if prednisone is taken every day during pregnancy?

Pregnant patients on prednisone treatment are at increased risk for premature birth (birth before full-term or 37 weeks gestation) and possibly birth weight that is lower than expected. However, some studies suggest that these risks are caused by the underlying medical condition and not solely due to prednisone.

If you are taking prednisone to manage a chronic condition, be sure to consult your physician as soon as you learn about your pregnancy to adjust the treatment plan, if necessary.

Prednisone and Breastfeeding

Can breastfeeding patients take prednisone?  The answer is Yes. Once prednisone is taken small amounts of prednisone gets mixed with breast milk. But since it is a synthetic form of a naturally occurring hormone, it does not have any possible harmful effects on the baby. Furthermore, this hormone does not affect milk production.

Prednisone reaches its peak of action after an hour of taking the medication. To reduce the amount of prednisone in the breast milk, you can wait for a few hours before nursing the infant. Some physicians prescribe the lowest possible dose to help limit prednisone levels in the breast milk. As a matter of fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics considers prednisone as breastfeeding-compatible drug.