Victoza During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

by on April 27, 2012


Victoza (Liraglutide) is a medication that is used to treat type 2 diabetes when the condition is not controlled with insulin therapy, diet and exercise. Patients who have questions about using Victoza during pregnancy or about Victoza and breastfeeding should speak with their physicians prior to becoming pregnant, as soon as they know they are pregnant, or before nursing an infant.

Victoza is classified as a FDA pregnancy category C drug because sufficient research is not available to determine the side effects of Victoza on an unborn baby.  In laboratory tests performed on pregnant rabbits and rats, serious abnormalities and malformations were observed. Female rats that were given Victoza before mating experienced a higher number of embryonic deaths than those that were not given the drug, although the medication appeared to have no effect on mating males. Victoza was also given to the nursing animals, resulting in lower body weights of their offspring with noticeable behavior differences in male young. Based on these studies, women who are pregnant, nursing, or plan to become pregnant should seek alternative treatment options.

Victoza during Pregnancy

The FDA has classified Victoza (Liraglutide) in the pregnancy class C, meaning that while no studies have been conducted on human patients, there have been reports of fetal harm in animal studies. When provided to pregnant animals, there was a slight increase in the number of miscarriages and stillbirths these animals experienced.

An increase in the number of serious birth defects and prolonged pregnancies were also reported. While it is important to remember that animals often respond differently to medications than humans, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should avoid class C medications unless the benefits to the mother greatly outweigh any potential risks to the fetus.

Side Effects in Pregnancy

Some of the side effects that pregnant women may experience while using Victoza are different from the typical side effects experienced by non-pregnant patients. For instance, pregnant women may experience severe constipation as this is both a side effect of the pregnancy and the medication.

Nausea may also increase, though this is usually only temporary. Finally, since pregnancy tends to cause an increased response to certain irritations, women may experience increased redness and swelling at the injection site. Again, women who are pregnant should only use this drug if the benefits clearly outweigh the risks in order to avoid these side effects.

Victoza and Breastfeeding

There have been no studies on humans who nursed their infants while taking this medication, but several studies in animals have shown that Victoza does pass into the breast milk of lab rats.

Since it has not been determined whether the amount of the drug that passes through is destroyed in the digestive tract of infants, it is unknown if human infants may be affected. Also, Victoza has been shown to cause thyroid tumors in infant lab rats, and it is possible that the same symptoms may appear in human infants. For this reason, the manufacturer recommends that women who must take Victoza should avoid breastfeeding.

Alternatives to Victoza

Although Victoza (Liraglutide) is a one-of-a-kind medication that helps patients with type 2 diabetes when they are unable to adequately control their blood sugar through other means, patients who become pregnant do have other options available to them. Standard insulin therapies along with a cautiously controlled diet and exercise may control blood sugar well enough, though pregnant women are encouraged to check their blood sugar more frequently than normal and take the necessary steps to normalize it.

There have not been any human studies that shed light on the use of Victoza during pregnancy, but the FDA feels that evidence of fetal harm in animals is enough to classify this medication in pregnancy category C. For more information or to discuss other available options, pregnant women should speak with their health care professionals.