Metoclopramide During Pregnancy: Is It Safe?

Metoclopramide during pregnancy is safe, as several studies have found no association of this drug with fetal alterations.
Metoclopramide During Pregnancy: Is It Safe?

Last update: 08 May, 2022

The symptoms of the first trimester of pregnancy are usually quite uncomfortable. Two of the most frequent are morning sickness and vomiting, which affect almost 70% of pregnant women. Beyond being temporary discomforts, they can alter quality of life, and in many cases, affect the health of the mother and the baby. For all these reasons, many women are looking for drugs to alleviate these digestive symptoms, such as Metoclopramide. However, many women wonder if metoclopramide during pregnancy is safe.

In the following article, we’ll tell you what you need to know. Keep reading!

What is Metoclopramide used for?

One of the most well-known drugs to treat nausea is Metoclopramide, a substance with antiemetic properties, that is, it’s capable of preventing and controlling nausea and vomiting.

Its mechanism of action occurs in the brain, as it specifically blocks the dopamine receptors located in the vomiting center.

Therefore, Metoclopramide is a drug indicated for the following purposes:

  • Preventing and controlling nausea and vomiting from any cause
  • As part of the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux, esophagitis, hiatal hernia, gastritis, and gastroparesis
  • As a means of preventing of adverse symptoms of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and cobalt therapy.

It should be clarified that the treatment of choice in pregnant women is doxylamine succinate combined with pyridoxine hydrochloride (known as Cariban®). This is because its effects on pregnancy have been extensively studied and it has been proven that its consumption doesn’t entail health risks for the mother or the baby.

However, for many women, this drug doesn’t provide the expected results, so they must resort to other options, such as Metoclopramide.

A woman leaning over a toilet.
Nausea and vomiting are very common symptoms during the first weeks of pregnancy. And when they don’t subside with simple measures, resorting to effective and safe drugs for this stage becomes necessary.

Metoclopramide in pregnancy

Although it’s ideal to avoid taking drugs during pregnancy, there are situations in which nausea and vomiting can lead the mother to dehydration. If this condition isn’t corrected in time, her health and that of her baby are at risk.

This is what happens in hyperemesis gravidarum, a syndrome that develops in the first trimester of pregnancy and is characterized by the development of severe nausea and vomiting. In these cases, the mother loses a large amount of water (her weight drops by more than 5%) and essential minerals.

The reason for its occurrence is related to the increase in pregnancy hormones, such as human chorionic gonadotropin and estradiol.

To prevent and control this gestational disorder, pharmacological treatments including ondansetron, metoclopramide, and doxylamine/pyridoxine are prescribed.

The side effects of Metoclopramide during pregnancy

The appropriate dose of Metoclopramide during pregnancy is 10 mg and it’s administered orally, intramuscularly, or intravenously, before each meal.

As it works directly on the brain, it’s known as a “centrally acting” drug and this is associated with an increased risk of developing neurological symptoms as adverse effects. Among the most frequent are the following:

  • Dystonia: These are involuntary, sustained, or intermittent muscle contractions. They generally occur after intravenous administration
  • Parkinson’s type symptoms: Tremors, rigidity
  • Somnolence
  • Convulsions
  • Allergic reactions

Such side effects tend to occur more frequently in children and young adults, especially when high doses of the drug are administered. Even so, it’s important to pay attention to the pregnant woman’s response after taking the drug.

Is Metoclopramide during pregnancy safe?

Now, can we say that the consumption of this drug is safe for the baby?

A study carried out in Denmark affirms that it is, as came to this conclusion after an extensive study that considered the information of 1,222,503 pregnant women.

The objective of the trial was to determine the association between the consumption of the drug and the risk of developing major fetal alterations, such as congenital malformations, spontaneous miscarriage, and intrauterine death.

Analysis of the data confirmed that metoclopramide use during pregnancy isn’t associated with an increased risk of these complications compared to non-use.

The same conclusion was reached by a safety review carried out in Israel in 2007, which considered information on 113,612 children born in that country.

Although only a low percentage of them had been exposed to metoclopramide during the first trimester of pregnancy (4.2 %), the risk of suffering malformations or gestational complications was not significantly higher than that of the rest. In other words, these consequences couldn’t be attributed to the intake of the drug by the mother.

A woman talking to her gynecologist.
Consult your gynecologist or obstetrician before taking any medication or substance, even if they’re natural products.

Don’t self-medicate during pregnancy!

The research described above studied the safety of this drug in relation to the formation and development of the fetus. However, they didn’t evaluate the possible adverse effects on the mother after its consumption during pregnancy.

Therefore, before consuming any medication or natural herbal product during pregnancy, you should discuss it with your doctor. This way, you’ll get the most appropriate information and you’ll be able to prevent the risk of suffering complications in this key stage of your life.

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