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Is It Safe to Use Corticosteroids in Pregnancy?

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  • Written By: H. Lo
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 23 May 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2019
    Conjecture Corporation
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In general, the complete safety of using corticosteroids in pregnancy cannot be guaranteed, but a doctor might still prescribe it to a pregnant woman if her condition warrants necessary use of the medication. To further gauge the safety of this medication when used in pregnancy, there would need to be more human studies. Animal studies, though, suggest that, in some instances, using corticosteroids in pregnancy can lead to birth defects, such as a cleft palate or delayed growth of the fetus when it is in the womb. While animal studies do not necessarily indicate how the medication might affect humans, it is normal for a doctor to take caution when prescribing corticosteroids or other medications for a pregnant woman.

Corticosteroids treat inflammation and are used for medical conditions such as arthritis, asthma and skin problems. The medication comes in a variety of forms, such as in an injection form, oral form or topical form. The safety of using corticosteroids in pregnancy might vary with each form, and this can sometimes determine which type a doctor prescribes. For example, to treat nasal problems, a nasal form of the medication is usually safer to use than oral corticosteroids.

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Overall, the type of corticosteroid a doctor might prescribe, as well as the dose, depends on a woman’s medical condition, medical history and other available treatment options. These factors are important to consider as they help establish the potential benefits that the woman might gain from the medication, as well as the potential risks. If the doctor determines that the woman will need to use corticosteroids, he or she will prescribe a dose that presents her with the least amount of risk in her condition. In general, to decrease the risks associated with using corticosteroids in pregnancy, the doctor will prescribe the smallest dose possible to effectively treat the woman’s condition.

While the major concern with using corticosteroids in pregnancy is the effect that the medication might have on the fetus, the expectant mother might need to be aware of the potential side effects that using the medication might cause for herself. Side effects of corticosteroids include blurred vision, easy bruising and high blood pressure. In addition, muscle weakness, stomach irritation and weight gain are other side effects associated with the medication. Some side effects will be mild, but if the woman experiences persistent or severe side effects, she should contact her doctor immediately.

Due to the potential risks of using corticosteroids in pregnancy, a doctor will also take the same precautions when considering prescribing corticosteroids for a woman who is breastfeeding. Corticosteroids are found in breast milk and can affect a baby who is nursing. As such, a woman who is breastfeeding should speak with her doctor before using the medication.

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