Can You Take Prednisone When Pregnant? Safety & Side Effects

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    Prednisone is a corticosteroidiXA group of steroid hormones produced in the adrenal cortex that are used for treatments in synthetic form to reduce inflammation. medicine used to manage disorders such as asthma, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)iXA digestive system disorder in which symptoms such as abdominal pain and frequent changes in bowel movement coexist. , and some autoimmune diseases (1). However, you may be concerned about using prednisone during pregnancy due to the fear of adverse effects on the developing fetus. Therefore, it is important to inform your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to conceive when on this medication.

    In this post, we explain whether or not can you take prednisone while pregnant, when it is recommended, the recommended dosage, its possible side effects, and whether it causes withdrawal symptoms.

    In This Article

    What Are Prednisone And Prednisolone?

    Prednisone is used for skin ailments and asthma

    Image: Shutterstock

    Prednisone and prednisolone are synthetic corticosteroids, which work to suppress the inflammation and immune responses. Prednisone (a glucocorticoid) is broken down to prednisolone in the body, and both are helpful in treating various conditions, including endocrine disorders, autoimmune diseases, skin conditions, and asthma. These steroid medications mimic the activity of hydrocortisone, a natural corticosteroid produced by the adrenal glands.

    They are suggested in different dosages based on the condition being treated and are available in the form of tablets, capsules, gels, inhalers, topical creams, eye drops, injections, and intravenous solutions (2).

    Can You Take Prednisone During Pregnancy?

    Prednisone should be used only under medical supervision

    Image: Shutterstock

    You can take prednisone while pregnant only if its potential benefits are more than the risks to you and the baby. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists it under Pregnancy Category C of drugs, which means animal studies have shown adverse effects on the unborn baby, and there are no well-controlled studies in humans (3).

    Prednisone is said to cross the placentaiXA temporary organ that develops during pregnancy and provides the fetus with oxygen and nutrients. , but the fetal effect is minimized by a placental enzyme (11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2) (4). However, you should take this drug only if your doctor prescribes it to ensure safe prenatal care.

    When Is Prednisone Recommended For Pregnant Women?

    Your doctor would recommend the drug if the benefits outweigh the potential risks. It is prescribed in the case of:

    • Autoimmune disordersiXDiseases in which the body’s immune system mistakes healthy cells as foreign and attacks them. including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)iXA disease in which the immune system targets its tissues, resulting in inflammation and tissue damage. , asthma, antiphospholipid syndromeiXA condition where there is an increased tendency to form abnormal blood clots. and hepatitis.
    • Severe allergic problems, where prednisone is prescribed in combination with other anti-allergic drugs (5).
    • Hyperandrogenism, a condition of elevated male sex hormones in pregnant women. It happens when the fetus produces male hormones and enhances the androgen levels in the woman. This leads to decreased uterine tone and even pregnancy loss (6).

    A healthcare professional may also prescribe prednisone as part of hormone replacement therapy for individuals with adrenal insufficiency.

    protip_icon Quick fact
    Prednisone may also be recommended for rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease during pregnancy (7).

    What Is The Recommended Dosage Of Prednisone For Pregnant Women?

    The dosage of prednisone is different for different conditions. Your doctor might keep it under 20mg/day depending on the severity of the condition.

    What Are The Possible Side Effects Of Prednisone During Pregnancy? 

    Using prednisone when pregnant may cause swollen feet and ankles

    Image: Shutterstock

    High dosage of prednisone is likely to cause some side effects as mentioned below:

    • Studies have found that the potential teratogenicity of corticosteroids during pregnancy could moderately increase the risk of birth defects such as cleft lip caused by the drug (7) (8).
    • According to research, up to 70% of patients reported an increase in body weight due to prolonged use of the drug. Almost 73% of patients complained of sleep disorders (restlessness and insomniaiXA sleep disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get a sound sleep. ) after taking this medication(9).
    • Other common side effects include a headache, irritability, sleeplessness, nausea, weight gain, and anxiety. Serious side effects could be high blood sugar, changes in vision, swelling in the feet or ankles (10).

    Lisa, a mother of two from Minneapolis, shares her experience of dealing with high blood sugar levels after failing her glucose test during pregnancy. She explains, “I failed my glucose test (a test where they make you drink a super sugary drink and then test your blood sugar after an hour). After the fact, I learned that prednisone, which I take to keep my flares bearable, raises your blood sugar so I basically had no chance of passing. I decided to skip the 3-hour test because I would have had to go off prednisone for a week and that is just not possible with how bad my RA (rheumatoid arthritis) has been. Instead, I just had them give me a referral to an endocrinologist. Who knows if I technically have gestational diabetes or whether my sugars are artificially high due to the prednisone use. Either way, high blood sugar isn’t good for me or the baby so getting them under control is important. (i).”

    protip_icon Point to consider
    While short-term use may not have as many adverse effects, long-term use is found to be associated with adrenal cortex suppression in newborns (15).

    Does Prednisone Cause Withdrawal Symptoms?

    Fatigue is a withdrawal symptom of prednisone

    Image: Shutterstock

    Abrupt termination of the medication might result in general withdrawal symptoms such as weakness, extreme fatigue, diarrhea, slowed movements, fever, changes in skin color, salt cravings and weight loss. To avoid these, take the doctor’s advice before you reduce the dosage or stop the medication (10).

    Is Prednisone Used In Infertility Treatment For Women With Repeated IVF Failure?

    Prednisone may lead to miscarriages

    Image: Shutterstock

    Corticosteroids such as prednisone are used to treat infertility in women as they are believed to reduce the number of natural killer cells to facilitate conception. But these drugs suppress the immune responses as well, preventing the immune system from responding to pregnancy. Suppression of the immune system will increase the risks of congenital abnormalitiesiXAn inherited illness that manifests at or before birth. , miscarriage and preterm labor (11).

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. Does prednisone help prevent miscarriage?

    A study on 80 women in 2006 indicated that combination therapy of prednisone, progesteroneiXA female reproductive hormone that plays a vital role in menstruation, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. , aspirin, and folateiXNaturally occurring form of Vitamin B9, responsible for protein metabolism and the production of red blood cells. ensures a higher live birth rate in women with idiopathic recurrent miscarriages (12).

    2. How long does it take for prednisone to get out of my system after I stop taking it?

    Prednisone gets out of your system within one day. However, its side effects may either not go away or take a long time to reverse (13).

    3. How will prednisone affect my unborn baby?

    Taking prednisone for a long time might adversely affect your baby, causing low birth weight or preterm delivery. However, it has not been confirmed whether these effects are because of the medication or the condition for which the medications are given. Therefore, doctors prescribe prednisone only when they feel its benefits outweigh the pregnancy risks (14).

    Prednisone helps to manage inflammatory disorders like asthma and autoimmune conditions. However, using prednisone during pregnancy might need caution as it may adversely affect your health and fetal development. Experts suggest that prednisone should be used during pregnancy only when its benefits outweigh the risks. Therefore, if you are pregnant, inform your obstetric specialist and adjust the prednisone dosage accordingly. Remember, taking the medication in a dose higher than recommended may cause cleft lip in babies and lead to sleep disorders, nausea, and headache in mothers.

    Infographic: Possible Withdrawal Symptoms Of Prednisone During Pregnancy

    If your doctor has advised you to take Prednisone when pregnant, follow their instructions strictly and monitor your health closely. Also, discontinuing taking the medication suddenly may lead to side effects. Call your doctor immediately if you experience the withdrawal symptoms mentioned in the infographic below.

    side effects of abruptly stopping prednisone when pregnant (infographic)

    Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

    Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

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    This post is for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for a doctor’s consultation. Do not use any medication without talking to your doctor.

    Key Pointers

    • Prednisone is a medication used to treat autoimmune diseases, IBS, asthma, and skin conditions during pregnancy only if prescribed by a doctor.
    • It can cross the placenta and studies on animals show negative fetal impact.
    • Recommended dosage is under 20mg per day depending on the condition severity.
    • Prednisone use can increase the risk of cleft lip in babies and cause weight gain, sleep disorders, high blood pressure, and vision changes in pregnant women.
    • Prednisone is also used for infertility treatment in women but may cause congenital disabilities, preterm birth, and pregnancy loss due to its immunosuppressive action.

    Watch this video to gain insight into the definition and mechanism of action of prednisone. Additionally, explore the potential side effects associated with this medication.

    Personal Experience: Source

    i. Pregnancy update: 30 weeks;


    MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
    1. Ping Li, Ying Zheng, and Xin Chen; Drugs for autoimmune inflammatory diseases: from small molecule compounds to anti-tnf biologics; NCBI (2017)
    2. Drug record corticosteroids; National Institutes of Health; 2018
    3. John J. Cush; Prevention and management of serious infections with biologic use in rheumatoid arthritis; Drug safety quarterly, 2013
    4. W. Kemp, J.P. Newham, J.G. Challis, A.H Jobe, and S.J. Stock; ; Human Reproduction Update, Vol.22, No.2, pp. 240-259
    5. Quick reference from the working group report on managing asthma during pregnancy: recommendations for pharmacologic treatment; National Asthma Education And Prevention Program; 2004
    6. Deepti Jain; Fertility and pregnancy outcome in a woman with classic congenital adrenal hyperplasia; BMJ Case Rep; 2013
    7. Gretchen Bandoli,; A review of systemic corticosteroid use in pregnancy and the risk of select pregnancy and birth outcomes; NCBI (2018)
    8. Park W, Mazzotta P, et al.; Birth defects after maternal exposure to corticosteroids: prospective cohort study and meta-analysis of epidemiological studies; Teratology; 2000
    9. Miriam C, Pasquale V; Corticosteroid-related central nervous system side effects; J PharmacolPharmacother; 2013
    10. Prednisone; U.S. National Library of Medicine; 2015
    11. Steroid treatment for IVF problems may do more harm than good; The University of Adelaide; 2016
    12. Clemens B Tempfer et al.; A combination treatment of prednisone, aspirin, folate, and progesterone in women with idiopathic recurrent miscarriage: a matched-pair study; U.S. National Library of Medicine; 2006
    13. How long does prednisone stay in your system?; Vasculitis Foundation
    14. Prednisone; Mother To Baby
    15. Prednisone Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Warnings;
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