Morning Sickness Med Not Linked to Birth Defects

Metoclopramide for pregnancy nausea did not increase birth defect risks

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Millions of pregnant women are no strangers to morning sickness. It can strike any time, morning or night, and some women may seek a way to treat it.

A recent study found that taking a specific medication for nausea during pregnancy did not hurt the women's babies.

The medication is metoclopramide (brand name Reglan), which was studied in more than one million pregnant women.

Women taking metoclopramide did not have any more miscarriages or stillbirths than women not taking metoclopramide.

The babies born to women who took metoclopramide also did not have any higher risk of birth defects compared to children born to women who did not take metoclopramide.

"Ask your OB/GYN about managing nausea."

This study, led by Björn Pasternak, MD, PhD, of the Department of Epidemiology Research at Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, Denmark, aimed to find out the safety of the medication metoclopramide.

Metoclopramide is often given to women during pregnancy to help with nausea and vomiting.

The researchers examined a little more than 1.2 million pregnancies among Danish women from 1997 to 2011.

One in every five of the women had taken metoclopramide during her pregnancy.

Each woman who took metoclopramide was matched to four other women based on their age, the year they were pregnant and any risk factors that might increase risks for their babies.

The researchers then recorded how many of the women had a stillbirth or miscarriage or had children with a birth defect in any one of 20 different categories. Those categories included heart defects, neural tube defects, cleft lip or cleft palate, missing a limb and other major birth defects.

Among the 28,486 women who had taken metoclopramide, the rate of major birth defects was about 25 babies per 1,000 births.

Among the 113,698 women who had not taken metoclopramide, the rate of major birth defects was about 27 babies per 1,000 births.

These findings mean the metoclopramide did not increase the risk that babies would be born with major birth defects.

The researchers also did not find an increased risk of miscarriage or stillbirth among mothers who took metoclopramide.

The rate of miscarriage among women who took metoclopramide was about 20 cases per 1,000. The rate among women not taking the medication was 62 cases per 1,000.

The rate of stillbirth among women who took metoclopramide was 3.5 deaths per 1,000 babies. The rate among the other women was 4 deaths per 1,000 babies.

"Metoclopramide use in pregnancy was not associated with increased risk of major [birth defects] overall, any of the 20 individual malformation categories assessed, [miscarriage] or stillbirth," the researchers concluded.

The study was published October 15 in the journal JAMA. The research was funded by the Danish Medical Research Council. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 14, 2013
Last Updated:
October 15, 2013