Bupropion, sold under the brand name Wellbutrin, belongs to the antidepressant class of medications and is used to treat major depressive disorders (1). This drug is also sold under the brand name Zyban for smoking cessation treatment in males and non-pregnant women (2).
In some instances, doctors may prescribe this drug even for pregnant women who are dealing with depression. However, this class of drugs can be potent and have significant side-effects. So is it safe to take Wellbutrin during pregnancy?
In this post, MomJunction gives you the safety profile of Wellbutrin during pregnancy, the possible side effects, and the precautions to follow before taking this medicine.
Is Wellbutrin Safe During Pregnancy?
The US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) categorizes Wellbutrin as a Pregnancy Category C drug. Animal studies did not find any notable adverse effects. One study on 7,005 infants, who were exposed to Wellbutrin during the first trimester, showed no increased risk of birth defects or cardiovascular malformations.
In a retrospective study, 6,853 infants, who were exposed to bupropion during early pregnancy, were found to have developed left outflow tract heart defects. However, the risk observed is small, and further studies are needed to confirm this effect of the drug (3). Therefore, the use of Wellbutrin is recommended during pregnancy only if the drug’s potential benefits outweigh its risks (1).
If you conceive when you are on Wellbutrin, talk to your doctor about it to decide whether or not to continue. According to a Harvard study, it is advisable not to discontinue it suddenly as it may result in withdrawal symptoms such as extreme irritability (4). If the doctor suggests you stop taking the drug, it will be gradual by tapering the dosage a little bit at a time.
Can Use Of Bupropion During Pregnancy Increase The Risk Of Miscarriage?
There are limited studies on the effect of Wellbutrin during pregnancy. One study on 136 pregnant women who used Wellbutrin during the first trimester found an increased risk of miscarriage, but not congenital malformations (5).
The lack of proper research on the drug’s use during pregnancy makes it essential that you discuss all possible risks with the doctor before using it.
Does Taking Bupropion During Pregnancy Cause Birth Defects?
A prospective comparative study on 136 women, who were pregnant or planning to get pregnant and taking bupropion, found that there was no increase in the rates of major fetal malformations above the baseline risk (6).
However, one study on claim-based data found that maternal exposure to bupropion during the second trimester was associated with an increased risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the baby. However, further research on this association is warranted to conclude the effects (7).
What Are The Side Effects Of Wellbutrin?
Some of the common side effects of Wellbutrin are (1):
- Dry mouth
Are There Any Precautions To Be Taken While Taking Wellbutrin?
The FDA recommends that you follow some precautions while taking Wellbutrin during pregnancy:
- Bupropion, when taken at high doses of up to 450mg/day, is said to be associated with seizures. Should your doctor prescribe it, ensure you take exactly the prescribed dosage and not more. Also, Wellbutrin should not be prescribed to patients with a history of head trauma, seizures, and central nervous system tumors.
- Some patients may also experience restlessness, agitation, anxiety, and insomnia during the initial treatment. So, it is advised that the caretakers and family members be aware of the risks associated with the treatment.
Depression can affect anyone, including pregnant women. If you’re on Wellbutrin for depression, ask your doctor if you should avoid pregnancy until you are off the medication. If you do conceive while you’re on medication, know how to taper the dosage and stop taking it if needed. In any case, do not continue or stop taking the medication without consulting your doctor.
Did you take Wellbutrin during pregnancy? How did it help you? 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.
2. Valentina M Fokina, et al.; Bupropion therapy during pregnancy: the drug and its major metabolites in umbilical cord plasma and amniotic fluid; NCBI
3. Alwan S, et al.; Maternal use of bupropion and risk for congenital heart defects; NCBI (2010)
4. Going off antidepressants; Harvard Health Publishing
5. Prescribing during pregnancy; Harvard Health
6. Chun-Fai-Chan, et al.; Pregnancy outcome of women exposed to bupropion during pregnancy: a prospective comparative study; NCBI (2005)
7. Figueroa, Roberto MD, PhD; Use of Antidepressants During Pregnancy and Risk of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in the Offspring; Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics