Loperamide During Pregnancy: Should You Take It and What Are Its Effects?

Loperamide During Pregnancy

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Lisha suffered from severe irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Her doctor prescribed loperamide (the primary form of Imodium) to treat the condition. When she conceived a couple of months later, she did not inform her doctor about the medication and continued to take it.

During her medical examination, she was diagnosed with hyperemesis. It was only then that she found out that loperamide was in the list of medicines not to be taken during pregnancy.

MomJunction investigates this and lists out the reasons on whether or not it is safe to take loperamide during pregnancy.

What Is Loperamide (Imodium) And How Does It Work?

Loperamide belongs to a group of drugs known as antidiarrheals. It is available with different brand names – Imodium, Imodium Advanced, Diamode, Diocalm Ultra, Diar-aid, Diasorb, Imotil, Vaprino, Entrocalm Loperamide, and more (1).

It is a medication to treat short bouts of diarrhea. It could also be prescribed to treat IBS and for regulating bowel activity followed by an intestinal surgery.

Loperamide works by reducing the activity of your intestines. It, therefore, lowers the speed at which food remains for a longer time and passes through the intestine. This allows the small intestine to absorb more water and nutrients, and pass firmer stools.

What Causes Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is a condition of loose and watery stools or a frequent urge to pass stools and can be acute or chronic.

Acute diarrhea lasts for a few days and develops due to bacterial or viral infection. It can also result from food poisoning, where the condition is called traveler’s diarrhea (being exposed to bacteria and parasites when on holiday). Chronic diarrhea lasts for about four weeks and occurs due to intestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease.

Antidiarrhoeal medicines such as loperamide may be helpful to lessen the frequency of stools. Patients are required to take the medication for a few days.

Is It Safe To Take Loperamide During Pregnancy?

No, you cannot take loperamide during pregnancy unless the doctor prescribes it based on the severity of diarrhea and the stage of gestation. And, the medicine should only be used if the potential benefits outweigh the risks.

Your health care provider is the best person to decide what is right for you and your baby.

When Is Loperamide Prescribed For Pregnant Women?

Your doctor may suggest you take the medication in the cases of

  • Acute or chronic allergic diarrhea
  • Digestive issues
  • Gastrointestinal tract disorders
  • Infectious diarrhea
  • Impaired metabolism
  • Diarrhea against ileostomy (surgery made to open the belly)

Which Category Does Loperamide For Pregnancy Fall Into?

Loperamide falls under pregnancy C category according to the US FDA. Medications are usually classified into A, B, C, D, and E based on their safety criterion during pregnancy. The C class medications have no adequate animal and well-controlled studies to reveal their benefits to pregnant women (2).

How Can You Take Loperamide While Pregnant?

Loperamide is available as capsules, tablets, oral liquid medicine or as chewable tablets. However, Imodium brand is available only as a chewable medicine.

If you are having acute diarrhea, the first dosage is four milligrams (two tablets/capsules), and second is two milligrams (one tablet/capsule) after you go to the toilet. In the case of chronic condition, the initial dosage is two milligrams followed by a supporting amount to normalize the stools. In this case, you may have to take medicine twice a day (3).

You should drink lots of water, and eat regularly. If the symptoms persist for more than two days, visit your doctor again.

Possible Side Effects Of Loperamide In Pregnancy:

When taking Imodium/loperamide, you may have certain side effects, which will often subside as your body adjusts to the medication. However, talk to your healthcare provider if the following become troublesome or persist:

  • Stomach pain, constipation, swelling of the intestines, dry mouth, nausea, and vomiting.
  • You may also feel dizzy, drowsy, increased fatigue for the rest of the day, and have an allergic reaction (skin rash).

What If You Are Already On Loperamide Prior To Pregnancy?

If you are taking this medication and know that you are pregnant only later, you should let your healthcare provider know about it immediately. She can decide whether you still require the medication or not, and in what dosage.

Can Taking Loperamide Cause Birth Issues In Your Baby?

Researchers differ in their opinion on the safety of loperamide in the first trimester and its effect on the birth defects in babies.

Most of the baby’s body and internal organs are formed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. And, this is when some medications could cause congenital disabilities.

One study found that women who were on loperamide gave birth to babies with no birth defects. Another study found mothers giving birth to babies with birth defects (4).

There is also no solid scientific affirmation that women taking loperamide are likely to have preterm labor, miscarriage, or a low birth weight baby. Research done on these aspects is limited and hence not conclusive.

Can Taking Loperamide Cause Stillbirth?

Here too, there is no scientific backing to this assumption.

Caution While Taking Loperamide/Imodium:

Even if there is no concrete evidence to prove the side effects of the drug during pregnancy, you should take care to be safe:

  • Do not take more than the prescribed amount of loperamide.
  • Let your doctor know if you are taking any other medicines and check their suitability with this medication.
  • If you have any queries regarding the medication, talk to your doctor.

A final note: You can take loperamide when you are pregnant only if your doctor strongly feels that the drug will benefit you. You cannot self-medicate as it can have serious effects on you and your baby.

Have any experiences to share with us? Feel free to share your story here.

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Rebecca Malachi

"I believe words have power. They are a powerful tool for a creative soul. Being a 'word addict', I express my thoughts and contribute articles on health, wellness and beauty. Apart from writing, I love listening to gospel music and enjoy observing nature in silence."
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