Ondansetron, commonly known as Zofran, is a drug created to prevent nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. Ondansetron is commonly used off label to treat the symptoms of morning sickness after other remedies have failed. Which leads me to the question is Zofran and pregnancy safe?
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Is Zofran and Pregnancy Safe?
The answer to the question “is Zofran and pregnancy safe?” is not straightforward. Here’s what we know…
- Zofran is a pregnancy category B medication.
- In the 1970s Zofran was taken off the market for use with morning sickness due to studies that showed a link to the birth defect of cleft palate.
- A Denmark study showed that ondansetron, when taken during pregnancy, was not associated with a significantly increased risk of adverse fetal outcomes.
- However, there have been other studies that have also found a small association with Zofran, cleft palate and other birth defects. (Their conclusion coincides with mine, in that ondansetron (Zofran) used during pregnancy needs further investigation.)
- A 2016 study showed no adverse outcomes, but actually lower rates of miscarriages, terminations and higher rates of live births.
- In 2013 the US Department of Justice collected $3 million from GlaxoSmithKline “after it sued the company for unlawful promotion and failure to report safety data on a number of its drugs, Zofran included”.
- As of 2016 GlaxoSmithKline is in litigation with more than 200 families facing allegations that babies developed birth defects after being exposed to Zofran in the womb.
Risks vs. Benefits
In a perfect world, women would have completely natural pregnancies, births and postpartums and would not need extra help from pharmaceutical medications. Reality is, however, that sometimes not taking a drug is more dangerous than taking it. Here’s what I mean…
Typically, the risks, side effects and what goes along with a medication far outweighs the benefits of a medication. But sometimes, the opposite is true.
If a woman is so sick from pregnancy that she cannot eat or drink she will become dehydrated and mal-nourished. If this continues, her and her baby’s life become at risk.
When comparing the risks of Zofran (birth defects like cleft palate) versus the risks of not taking Zofran (death) it’s obvious which is worse (death). For severe cases of morning sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum in this case, the benefits of Zofran possibly outweigh the risks of Zofran.
This is when having an excellent relationship with your care provider is crucial. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking Zofran.
TIP: Use the BRAIN acronym tool to get the most information to make an informed decision.
Zofran’s Most Likely Side Effect
If you decide that ondansetron would be helpful for you and your family, do know that constipation is the most likely side effect you will experience.
Many women have found relief by increasing fiber in their diets and by taking other over the counter products like stool softeners and fiber supplements.
- Please be aware that Colace, a common stool softener, is a pregnancy category C medication.
- Metamucil, a common fiber supplement, is a pregnancy category B medication.
- Please read more about pregnancy drug categories to make the best informed choice for you and your family.
If you and/or your doctor are not comfortable with taking additional medications to combat the side effect of constipation, try these tips.
TIP: Drink more water and eat fiber rich foods.
TIP: Shop mainly in the produce section of your grocery store.
Your Experience with Zofran and Pregnancy
Are you taking Zofran to combat morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum? Have you taken it in a previous pregnancy? What was your experience with Zofran and pregnancy? Did you notice any side effects?
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