Lyrica (pregabalin) is a popular drug used to treat epilepsy, nerve pain, and anxiety disorders. It can be very effective for those purposes, but it has also been linked to serious birth defects when taken by pregnant women.
Lyrica was originally approved as an epilepsy drug for partial seizures, but has also been approved for the treatment of chronic nerve pain (fibromyalgia) and anxiety. The exact mechanism by which it works is unknown, but it’s believed to work by binding to certain receptors on the nerves and brain stem, which in turn limits the release of certain neurotransmitters that signal pain.
The drug comes in both capsule and liquid form and is usually taken 2 or 3 times a day, depending on the severity of the condition and how well it responds to treatment. It should be taken at the same time every day as missing a dose can cause seizures in some people. As with any medication, you should never stop taking Lyrica without consulting your doctor. You’ll need to be slowly weaned off the drug if you’re going to stop taking it.
This drug is often used where other treatments have failed – if it works for those patients, they often have no other alternative. In women who are not pregnant and in men, that’s fine. For pregnant women or women that want to become pregnant, however, new evidence suggests they may face a difficult decision.
Lyrica And Birth Defects
The most common side effects associated with pregabalin are dizziness and sleepiness, along with headaches, insomnia, weight gain, and digestive problems. Like most drugs, its safety hasn’t been tested in pregnant women because of the potential risks to the mothers and children. However, that doesn’t mean that no pregnant women have taken it.
In a study involving 164 pregnant women taking pregabalin and 656 pregnant women not taking the drug, researchers found a significantly higher rate of birth defects among the children exposed to pregabalin. In fact, the babies exposed to pregabalin were three times as likely to suffer a birth defect as those not exposed. The risk was even higher for central nervous system defects.
However, the researchers also noted that the study is not entirely conclusive. The sample size was relatively small and certain other factors (like other health conditions) may have impacted the results. That said, the study stands as a warning.
Balancing Pregnancy And Lyrica
As mentioned above, this drug is often used where other treatments aren’t enough or have failed. For some patients, that makes it the only option for relief. So, what are you supposed to do if you take Lyrica and are or want to become pregnant?
The bottom line is that you’ll need to work with your doctor to determine what’s best for you. Managing medications during pregnancy is always difficult. Even over the counter medications can be problematic, not to mention prescriptions for things like antidepressants. So the right course is going to be different for each woman.
The key is to be complete open with your doctor. Make sure he or she knows about every medical condition you have, every medication you take, and your lifestyle – whether you smoke, drink, use drugs, exercise, sleep enough, and anything else that might affect your health. Then you and your doctor can talk about other medications or treatments that may help control your symptoms.
If there aren’t any good alternatives, you and your doctor can talk about how best to keep you and the baby safe during a pregnancy. That may mean continuing to take Lyrica and having more frequent doctor’s visits and fetal monitoring to make sure the baby’s safe or it may mean stopping Lyrica before you get pregnant.
At the end of the day, it’s always tough to balance the baby’s and mother’s health. And because of the difficulty and danger of performing controlled studies about the safety of medications during pregnancy, it may be that we’ll never have a perfectly clear answer about the safety of Lyrica. But if you’re taking pregabalin, talk to your doctor about how it may affect your pregnancy.