Can You Take a Statin If You're Pregnant?

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Statins are prescribed in cases where diet and exercise are not enough to lower your cholesterol levels. Because of their ability to impact all aspects of your lipid profile, statins are one of the most commonly prescribed lipid-lowering medications. Although you might think of high cholesterol and triglyceride levels as something to worry about as you get older, you can have high cholesterol levels at a younger age, too ---- even in your 20s, 30s, and 40s, which is commonly around the time many women begin having children. Having high cholesterol levels could mean that you could be placed on cholesterol-lowering medication like a statin.

There are currently seven statins on the U.S. market:

  • Crestor (rosuvastatin)
  • Lescol (fluvastatin)
  • Lipitor (atorvastatin)
  • Livalo (pitavastatin)
  • Mevacor (lovastatin)
  • Pravachol (pravastatin)
  • Zocor (simvastatin)

All statins carry a pregnancy category of X, which means that animal and/or human studies have shown a possible risk of developing birth defects when taking the drug. Therefore, medications in this category should not be taken if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant unless the benefits of taking the medication outweigh the harm the drug may do to the baby. There have not been a lot of studies examining the effects of statins on pregnant women, but the studies that do exist suggest that there is a slight possibility that taking statins during pregnancy may affect the development of your child.

The Research

Animal studies have not been conclusive. Rabbits and rats given some statins have shown developmental abnormalities, such as fused vertebrae, fused ribs, and smaller pup size. However, not all animals suffered from these defects. Human studies have also not been conclusive. Although birth defects, such as heart defects, cleft palate, neural tube defects, and other structural abnormalities occurred, they were still considered rare. Additionally, most of the mothers in these studies had other pre-existing conditions (such as diabetes or obesity) or were taking more than one prescription or over-the-counter drug, which could also have played a role in the defects noted in these studies. According to one statin manufacturer, the incidence of developing these defects was almost 4%.

So, if you are taking a statin and are planning to become pregnant, you should let your healthcare provider know of your plans. Your healthcare provider may switch you to another therapy since the relationship between taking statins and the development of birth defects in your child cannot be ruled out. Additionally, if you have just found out that you are pregnant, you should notify your healthcare provider as soon as possible. He or she will decide whether or not the benefits of taking the statin outweigh the possible risks to your baby.

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Article Sources

  • Bateman BT, Hernandez-Diaz S, Fischer MA, et al. Statins and congenital malformations: a cohort study. Br Med J 2015; 350:h1035.
  • Godfrey LM, Erramouspe J, Cleveland KW. The teratogenic risk of statins in pregnancy. Ann Pharmacother 2012;46:1419-24
  • Ofori B, Rey E, Berard A. Risk of congenital anomalies in pregnant users of statin drugs. Br J Clin Pharmacol 2007;64:496-509.
  • Petersen EE, Mitchell AA, Carey JC et al. Maternal exposure to statins and risk for birth defects: a case series approach. Am J Med Genet 2008;146A:2701-2705.