Dextromethorphan and Pregnancy
Based on the results of animal studies, dextromethorphan is considered a pregnancy Category C medicine, meaning it may not be safe for women who are expecting. When this drug was studied in chick embryos, it appeared to cause several birth defects. Although many experts believe that this drug is safe during pregnancy, a healthcare provider should only prescribe dextromethorphan if the benefits outweigh the risks.
Dextromethorphan is a medication commonly used to temporarily relieve coughing due to the common cold, flu, or other conditions. It is available alone or in combination with other cough and cold medications. Studies in animals suggest that the drug may not be safe for use during pregnancy, although many experts consider it safe for use by pregnant women.
Dextromethorphan is classified as a pregnancy Category C drug. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses a category system to classify the possible risks to a fetus when a specific medicine is taken during pregnancy. Pregnancy Category C is given to medicines that have not been adequately studied in pregnant humans but have caused fetal harm in animal studies.
In addition, medicines that have not been studied in any pregnant women or animals are automatically given a pregnancy Category C rating.
When dextromethorphan was studied in chick embryos, the drug appeared to cause a variety of birth defects. However, this study has been criticized because the doses given to the chick embryos where so high that all of the embryos died before they could hatch. In addition, there are questions about whether studies in chick embryos actually apply to humans. When given to pregnant rat and rabbits, dextromethorphan did not cause harm to the offspring.
Various studies have looked at whether babies born to women who took dextromethorphan while pregnant have a higher risk for problems. These studies suggest that the drug does not cause major birth defects. However, the studies are not adequate enough to rule out the possibility of rare problems.
It is important to note that animals do not always respond to medicines in the same way that humans do. Therefore, a pregnancy Category C medicine may be given to a pregnant woman if the healthcare provider believes that the benefits to the woman outweigh any possible risks to her unborn child.
While many sources consider dextromethorphan safe for use during pregnancy, it is probably best to avoid this medicine unless it is clearly needed. In addition, keep in mind that many dextromethorphan products contain multiple medications. The information in this article applies only to dextromethorphan. If you are considering a combination product, make sure you ask about the safety of all of the medicines found in that particular product.
Additionally, liquid forms of dextromethorphan that contain alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy. Alcohol may cause problems in a developing fetus.