Omeprazole in Pregnancy

Omeprazole is in the category of medicines called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). It helps reduce the production of stomach acid to treat issues such as gastroesophageal reflux, indigestion and stomach ulcers. These issues are quite common in pregnancy due to physical and hormonal changes that occur as your pregnancy progresses. However, it is quite natural to ask if you can take omeprazole in pregnancy if you develop these issues. What should you do if you are already taking omeprazole and become pregnant? Find out now!

Taking Omeprazole During Pregnancy

Omeprazole is a proton pump inhibitor and should be taken in pregnancy only if really needed. The FDA categorizes this medication as pregnancy category C, which means it can be harmful for an unborn baby when taken during pregnancy. Not much research is available about omeprazole in pregnancy, but experts believe that it benefits a pregnant woman and her baby more than it might cause harm. Still, there are other better alternatives available that you can take safely during pregnancy.

Related Studies

There are not enough controlled human researches highlighting the effects of this medication during pregnancy; however some animal studies have found evidence of toxic effects of omeprazole in unborn babies. For instance, a study conducted on pregnant rats and rabbits found that the drug caused dose related fetal and embryo mortality. The FDA has also received anecdotal reports of 11 birth defects after taking omeprazole in pregnancy.

Omeprazole and Breastfeeding

Omeprazole can pass through breast milk. Studies show that there may be 0.004mg of this drug in 200ml of milk. As it can pass through breast milk and also have potential adverse effects in nursing infants, it is a good idea to stop nursing or discontinue its use while you are breastfeeding your baby. You have to discuss it with your doctor first to determine if it is better to stop taking the medication or to stop nursing for some time.

What Else to Consider Before Taking Omeprazole

You should avoid taking omeprazole if you are allergic to it or any benzimidazole medicine such as mebendazole or albendazole. It can cause heartburn, but what you take as heartburn may as well be the first symptom of a heart attack. Seek immediate medical attention if you have chest pain that spreads to the shoulder or arm, you sweat profusely, and you have a feeling of being ill.

You should talk to your doctor before taking omeprazole in pregnancy or when you have other medical conditions, such as low levels of magnesium in your body, liver disease, or low bone mineral density. You should also avoid taking it if you have trouble with swallowing, heartburn that may have lasted for more than 3 months, bloody or black stools, unexplained weight loss, and frequent chest pain with wheezing and nausea.

What's more, you need to bear in mind that taking a PPI such as omeprazole can increase your risk of bone fracture in the wrist, hip or spine. Moreover, you should never give this drug to your child under 1 year of age without a doctor's advice.

Possible Side Effects of Taking Omeprazole

Just like other drugs, there are certain side effects associated with the use of omeprazole in pregnancy and otherwise.

  • Common Side Effects: Some of the most common side effects of omeprazole are gas, nausea, headache and constipation. Be sure to talk to your doctor if these side effects do not go away.
  • Serious Side Effects: Contact your doctor right away if you develop a rash, have swelling of the throat, face, lips, tongue, eyes or feet, or you have trouble breathing and swallowing. Hoarseness, irregular heartbeat, extreme fatigue, seizures, dizziness, fever, muscle spasm, stomach pain, diarrhea and uncontrollable shaking of a body part are other serious side effects of omeprazole.

Know the Proper Dosage

To avoid side effects, the most important thing is to never exceed the dosage recommended by your doctor. You usually find this drug as a delayed-release tablet, powder for suspension, a delayed-released capsule, and a packet. Overdosing may lead to several complications and produce symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, nausea, profuse sweating, vomiting, blurred vision, flushing, headache and dry mouth. Take it as prescribed by your doctor or consider the following:

  • You should take 20-40 mg of omeprazole a day to treat ulcers, GERD, H. pylori infection or erosive esophagitis.
  • You should take 40 mg a day to prevent upper gastrointestinal bleeding.
  • You should take 120 mg thrice a day to treat Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.
  • You should take 20 mg a day to treat heartburn – do not take it for more than a couple of weeks.

You can take a delayed-release capsule one hour before a meal. Be sure to swallow it whole and drink a full glass of water with it. Never crush, chew, or split it. When using the powder for oral suspension, be sure to mix it well in the water before using it. 

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