Taking Imodium While Pregnant: What You Need to Know
When you’re pregnant, it can be overwhelming to determine which medications are safe and which ones are not. Even widely used over-the-counter medications may not be deemed safe for pregnant women. Unfortunately, pregnancy can cause hormonal and physical changes that leave you needing to treat certain symptoms more than ever before. One medication that is often taken is Imodium, but is it okay to take Imodium while pregnant? The active ingredient in Imodium is called loperamide. Loperamide is intended to decrease the frequency and severity of diarrhea. Imodium works by slowing the movement of the intestines, so it’s also recommended for the treatment of specific conditions like gastroenteritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and short bowel syndrome. Side effects tend to be fairly mild. Common side effects include abdominal pain, drowsiness, vomiting, dry mouth, and constipation. It’s on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.
While Imodium is available over-the-counter, there has been some controversy surrounding its use. Loperamide is technically an opioid, like narcotic pain medications. At normal, therapeutically recommended doses, loperamide can’t cross the blood-brain barrier, so it doesn’t have the psychoactive effects of other opioids. At high doses, it can cross into the brain and cause a sense of euphoria and other effects similar to opioids. Due to the increasing number of deaths and the severity of the opioid crisis, loperamide is something public health officials are investigating.
So, is it okay to take Imodium while pregnant? It may be okay to occasionally take Imodium as instructed during pregnancy, but there’s no evidence showing it’s safe. Imodium is a category C drug. The FDA categorizes prescription and over-the-counter medicines to indicate how safe or risky they’re believed to be during pregnancy. A category c drug is somewhere in the middle and is part of a gray area. There may be some evidence of harm to a fetus in animal studies, but category C drugs don’t have any controlled pregnancy studies assessing their safety. The rule of thumb with most category C drugs is that the benefits of taking them should outweigh possible risks. However, pregnant women shouldn’t make this determination on their own. Instead, they should speak with their doctor who will advise them on the best route to take.
Diarrhea is a frequent symptom of pregnancy. Diarrhea during pregnancy can be caused by changes in hormones and diet, as well as anxiety. Diarrhea tends to be more common in the third trimester, often because the body is starting to prepare for labor and delivery. While the natural inclination may be to reach for something like Imodium, doctors warn against it. This isn’t just because of the potential risks to the baby. Sometimes diarrhea is the body’s way of eliminating harmful toxins or bacteria. Taking Imodium can slow this process and keep those toxins trapped in the body for longer. Anti-diarrhea medicines can also increase constipation, which is another common pregnancy symptom.
There isn’t enough data at present to say whether or not it’s safe to take Imodium during pregnancy. Most doctors believe taking Imodium at a normal dose and infrequently won’t lead to an increased risk of birth defects, but there’s no guarantee. If a pregnant woman took high doses of Imodium for the opioid effects, that could contribute to a risk of birth defects similar to taking opioid pain medicines. Even though Imodium isn’t linked to specific birth defects, don’t take it without first discussing it with your doctor.
Usually, pregnant women feel it’s best to avoid medications whenever possible since so few are classified as completely safe. A doctor may also advise a pregnant patient to avoid Imodium, especially during the first trimester. The first trimester is when a baby is doing all of its major development, and the organs are developing. It’s best to avoid all medicines during the first trimester. Alternatives to taking Imodium while pregnant can include:
- Just waiting may be one option. Most instances of diarrhea, even during pregnancy, will typically go away on their own in a few days. However, it’s important to stay hydrated. If there is blood in diarrhea, it’s important to contact a doctor right away.
- Avoiding certain foods can be a good way to prevent diarrhea or keep it from worsening. Foods that tend to make diarrhea worse include spicy foods, foods high in fiber, high-fat and fried foods, and milk and dairy.
- Having probiotic yogurts or drinks can help restore the digestive system back to a sense of normalcy.
If these tips don’t work, a doctor may advise an anti-diarrhea medicine such as Imodium. Imodium can be a better option than something like Pepto-Bismol. Pepto-Bismol has been linked to birth defects in animal studies. Pepto-Bismol also contains salicylate, which can cause bleeding in the mother and the baby.
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