Loperamide (Imodium) is used to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and acute diarrhea (1), and to regulate bowel activity after intestinal surgery.
In this post, MomJunction tells you if consumption of loperamide is safe during pregnancy, the possible side effects, and more.
What Is Loperamide (Imodium) And How Does It Work?
Loperamide belongs to a group of drugs known as antidiarrheals. The medication is used to treat short bouts of diarrhea, and could also be prescribed to treat IBS. It is available under different brand names – Imodium, Imodium Advanced, Pepto Diarrhea Control, Diocalm Ultra, Diar-aid, K-Pek II, Imotil, Vaprino, Entrocalm Loperamide, and more (2).
Diarrhea is a condition of loose and watery stools or a frequent urge to pass stools. It is common during pregnancy due to hormonal changes, suppression of the immune system, and food sensitivity. Know more about the causes of diarrhea during pregnancy here.
Loperamide acts by slowing the intestinal mobility, reducing the water and electrolyte movement, and thus increasing the transit time of stool in the intestine. It also increases the anal sphincter tone (ability to control), thereby reducing the inconsistency and urgency to empty the bowel.
Is It Safe To Take Loperamide When Pregnant?
Do not take loperamide during pregnancy unless the doctor prescribes it based on the severity of diarrhea and the stage of gestation. And the doctor prescribes the drug only if the potential benefits outweigh the risks.
[ Read: Diarrhea During Pregnancy ]
You should not self-medicate during pregnancy. Your healthcare provider is the best person to decide what is right for you and your baby.
Under Which Pregnancy Category Does Loperamide Fall?
The US FDA has categorized loperamide under the pregnancy C category (3). Medications are usually classified into A, B, C, D, and E based on their safety during pregnancy. Categorization under the C class means that the drug has been tested only on animals and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans. However, the drug may be prescribed to pregnant women if the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks (4).
When Is Loperamide Prescribed For Pregnant Women?
Usually, common diarrhea can be addressed with some dietary changes for a day or two. But if you have severe diarrhea with abnormal urine and stools, then visit your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe 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)
How To Take Loperamide During Pregnancy?
Your doctor might prescribe loperamide if they see the need for it. You should strictly follow their instructions on the dosage and usage of the drug. Loperamide is available as capsules, tablets, oral liquid medicine, or chewable tablets. However, the Imodium brand is available only as a chewable medicine.
Note that loperamide is not a substitute for dehydration caused during diarrhea; it only reduces the frequency of bowel movements. Therefore, you need to have lots of liquids and stay hydrated (3). If the symptoms persist for more than two days, visit your doctor again.
Also, you should consult the doctor if you have skin rashes or any other adverse reactions after taking loperamide.
Possible Side-effects Of Loperamide In Pregnancy
When taking Imodium/ loperamide, you may have certain side effects, which might subside as your body adjusts to the medication. Here are a few of the possible side-effects (5):
- Abdominal cramping, constipation, nausea, and vomiting.
- You may also feel dizzy, drowsy, fatigued, have blurred vision, restlessness, and a headache.
What If You Have Been Already Using Loperamide When You Are Pregnant?
If you are taking this medication and know about your pregnancy only later, you should tell your healthcare provider about it. They would decide whether you still require the medication or not, and in what dosage.
Can Taking Loperamide Cause Birth Issues In Your Baby?
According to the US FDA, teratology (effects on the fetus) studies on rats and rabbits have not shown any evidence of harmful effects on the fetus (3).
However, a small study in Sweden has found a “moderate increase of risk for a malformation in the infant” if the mother took loperamide in early pregnancy (6).
There is also no solid scientific affirmation that women taking loperamide are likely to have preterm labor, miscarriage, or a low birth weight baby.
[ Read: Tamiflu While Pregnant ]
Caution While Taking Loperamide/ Imodium
You should not take loperamide without a doctor’s prescription. Also, take the below precautions:
- Do not take more than the prescribed amount of the drug.
- Let your doctor know if you are taking any other medicines and check their suitability with this medication.
- Let your doctor know if you have a history of cardiac disturbances.
- If you have any queries regarding the medication, talk to your doctor.
A final note: You can take loperamide during pregnancy only if your doctor strongly feels that the drug will benefit you. You cannot self-medicate as it might have some unwanted effects on your health.
Did you use loperamide during pregnancy? Feel free to share your story in the comments section below.
2. Loperamide; U.S National Library of Medicine.
3. Imodium Capsules; U.S Food & Drug Administration (2016)
4. FDA pregnancy categories; Chemical Hazards Emergency Medical management, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
5. Loperamide (gastro-stop, imodium, lopedium, gastrex, diareze, diacare); St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne
6. Bengt Källén, Emma Nilsson, and Petra Otterblad Olausson; Maternal use of loperamide in early pregnancy and delivery outcome; Acta Pediatrica
- Symptoms Of Dehydration During Pregnancy
- Ways To Deal With A Stomach Flu During Pregnancy
- Dark Stool During Pregnancy
- Frequent Urination During Pregnancy