Is It Safe To Take Propranolol During Pregnancy?

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A few medical conditions such as high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat need constant medication, often for life. While these medications can make you feel better in general, their suitability should be checked when you are pregnant or are planning to have a baby. One such medication that you should check the safety of during pregnancy is propranolol.

In this post, MomJunction tells you if taking propranolol during pregnancy is safe, if the drug has any side-effects, and what the dosage should be to prevent any adverse effects.

What Is Propranolol?

Propranolol (Innopran XL) is a beta-blocker that is used to treat high blood pressure, anxiety, and migraines (1).

Propranolol can especially help in:

  • Treating irregular heartbeats
  • Preventing future heart attacks and strokes
  • Preventing chest pain due to angina

It also helps in reducing symptoms of excessive thyroid hormone in the body. It is available in tablet, capsule, and liquid form.

Is It Safe To Take Propranolol During Pregnancy?

The US Food and Drug Administration has categorized propranolol under “pregnancy category C.” This means animal studies have shown that the drug has adverse effects on the fetus, and there are no well-controlled studies in pregnant women (2).

While hypertension and cardiac issues can make pregnancy risky, taking medication that can harm your baby is not a good idea. As there are no well-controlled studies in pregnant women and the available studies suggest adverse effects of propranolol to the developing fetus, this drug should be taken during pregnancy only if the potential benefits outweigh the risks.

How Does Propranolol Effect Pregnant Women?

An animal study on rats found that oral administration of propranolol through pregnancy led to reduced neonatal weight and litter size. In humans, the observations could be interpreted to the increased muscle tone of the uterus, and instability in blood flow (3).

Mothers who were given propranolol Hcl at the time of labor showed signs of bradycardia (slow heart rate), hypoglycemia, and/or respiratory depression (2). Talk to your doctor and discuss if there are any safer alternatives to propranolol.

Recommended Dosage

US FDA recommends the following doses for each condition (4). However, your doctor will decide the dosage after considering your requirements.

  • The recommended dosage for hypertension is 40mg twice a day, and it is not known to cause any adverse effects during pregnancy (5).
  • Although the FDA recommends 80mg-320 mg for angina pectoris, studies proved that a dosage of more than 160 mg could cause adverse effects on the fetus. So, professional advice is needed (5).
  • 1mg to 30mg three or four times daily for atrial fibrillation
  • The initial dosage for myocardial infarction is 40mg, and after one month, it can be 60mg to 80mg.
  • Initial dosage for migraine is 80mg, but the effective dose range is 160mg or 240mg per day; it should be taken after consulting a medical professional.

Whether taken in the prescribed dosages or otherwise, propranolol can have certain side effects in the patients.

Side Effects Of Propranolol During Pregnancy

Propranolol has some common side effects on the mother (6).

  • If the mother has an intolerance to propranolol tablets, then she could experience a slow heart rate, low blood pressure, dizziness, light-headedness, blurred vision.
  • A few common side effects include tiredness, weakness, cold extremities, difficulty in sleeping, irregular heartbeat, Raynaud’s syndrome, and nightmares.

If you do take propranolol during pregnancy and experience any of these symptoms, then stop taking the medication and contact your doctor immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now, let us go through some frequently asked questions regarding propranolol use during pregnancy.

1. Is it okay to take propranolol occasionally during pregnancy?

Do not take propranolol occasionally, as the withdrawal of the medicine from your system should be gradual, over 10 to 14 days. You may experience unpleasant side effects such as sweating, shaking, worsening of angina, irregular or fast heartbeat, heart attack, or even death in some cases (6).

Also, medications for hypertension and anxiety need to be taken continuously for a certain period. So always discuss with your doctor before starting or stopping the medication and stick to the prescribed dosage.

2. What if I have already taken propranolol during pregnancy?

So, if you are already under medication, and found out that you are pregnant, then talk to your doctor to decide the best course of action, as abruptly stopping the drug is not safe.

3. Can propranolol cause miscarriage?

Several studies did not include miscarriage as an adverse effect of propranolol (7). However, the lack of well-controlled studies makes it difficult to determine if propranolol causes miscarriage.

4. Can taking propranolol during pregnancy cause stillbirth?

A study conducted based on the data from the Danish Fertility Database, the Danish National Hospital Register, and the National Prescription Register found that a higher rate of perinatal mortality was found among women exposed to beta-blockers (8). So, there is a chance of stillbirth upon the usage of propranolol during pregnancy.

5. Can taking propranolol during pregnancy cause any birth defects?

A paper published in The Journal of Pediatrics states that infants born to mothers who received continuous propranolol therapy during pregnancy reported a small placenta, intrauterine growth retardation, fetal depression at birth, postnatal hypoglycemia, and bradycardia (9).

Always consult your doctor for any ailments during pregnancy and follow their recommendations. Do not resort to self-medication as it could prove to be dangerous.

Did you take propranolol during pregnancy? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments section below.

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.


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