Gestational diabetes occurs when the blood sugar of a pregnant woman becomes too high. Blood sugar levels will usually return to normal after giving birth, but some doctors may prescribe diabetes medication in the meantime. Metformin is a drug commonly used to treat diabetes, specifically type 2 diabetes, which is similar to gestational diabetes. You may be concerned about the safety of taking metformin while pregnant, but we’re here to tell you that it’s perfectly safe for you and your baby.
Taking metformin while pregnant
The bottom line is that metformin is safe for pregnant women to take. In fact, the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) concluded that metformin lowered a woman’s chance of developing gestational diabetes by 41 percent. In non-pregnant women, the risk of developing diabetes was only lowered by 18 percent. This points to metformin being incredibly effective for managing gestational diabetes.
Even if you don’t have gestational diabetes yet, your doctor may put you on metformin as a precautionary measure if you have one or more risk factors. Several of the biggest risk factors include being overweight, having prediabetes, and having a history of gestational diabetes with previous pregnancies.
Metformin will cross the placenta, but it is not associated with any increased risks or birth defects. It is also safe to take while breastfeeding. Trace amounts may show up in breast milk, but it will not cause harm to your infant. A 2014 study published in Oxford Academic found no associated birth defects and complications linked to taking metformin while pregnant.
Metformin does more than just lower blood sugar. Metformin has many off-label uses. One study published by Medicine (Baltimore) shows that metformin can help women with PCOS get pregnant and carry a pregnancy to term, effectively decreasing the risk of miscarriage. Additionally, women who take metformin while pregnant gain less weight than women who take only insulin.
Gestational diabetes: the numbers
One out of 10 pregnant women in the U.S. will develop gestational diabetes. The condition is usually temporary, and blood sugar levels will return to normal after giving birth. It’s very important to keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range while pregnant. If blood sugar becomes too high, it could cause increased risk to the mother and baby. For example, the mother could develop preeclampsia, a sometimes life-threatening high blood pressure, and the baby’s shoulders could get stuck during birth. Women who have had gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on, so maintaining a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise, pregnant or not, is important.
If you have concerns about taking metformin while pregnant, talk to your doctor about protecting the health of you and your baby.