Can You Take Prednisone While Pregnant?

Taking prednisone while pregnant carries a small increased risk of cleft lip or palate, premature delivery, and low birth weight.

Because these risks are only slightly elevated, your healthcare provider may still recommend taking the medication for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, it's natural to have questions about taking prednisone during pregnancy.

This article discusses prednisone use during pregnancy and its possible effects on a developing fetus.

Pregnant woman taking multi-vitamins
 Maria Teijeiro / OJO Images / Getty Images

IBD and Pregnancy

Medications for your chronic conditions may be clearly needed during pregnancy. If your healthcare provider recommends medications like prednisone (corticosteroids), it means they believe the risks of the drug are likely lower than the risk of not taking them.

If you have IBD, it's important to be in remission or to have the IBD as under control as possible before getting pregnant.

However, even if a pregnancy is unplanned, many good medication options can help control IBD inflammation. Reducing inflammation from IBD is going to be a key factor in ensuring as healthy a pregnancy as possible.


It's potentially dangerous to abruptly stop taking prednisone. It's best to talk to your healthcare provider about any concerns. You should decide whether to discontinue the medication after consulting with an obstetrician and a gastroenterologist, preferably one who specializes in IBD and pregnancy.

Prednisone and Possible Birth Defects

Prednisone during pregnancy has been associated with:

These risks appear to be small, however, and in people with IBD, evidence shows that major birth defects are not likely.

In some research looking into the risks of prednisone during pregnancy, the small risk seen in general was not as great in people taking prednisone for IBD.

Cleft Lip or Palate

There is a very small risk of a cleft lip or palate in babies born to people who take prednisone during pregnancy, in particular when the prednisone is taken in the first trimester.

However, it is unknown how much of this risk could actually be due to the underlying chronic medical condition that the person has for which they are taking prednisone and how much of it is from the actual drug.

Premature Delivery

Some studies have shown that pregnant people taking prednisone have a slight increase in delivering their babies early (preterm delivery).

One study in people with systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE or lupus)—an inflammatory disease in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues—showed that people with active lupus who took more than 10 milligrams of prednisone per day had an increased risk of preterm delivery.

However, one study of pregnant people with IBD showed that the medications used to treat IBD, such as prednisone, did not have any significant effect on preterm delivery.

Low Birth Weight

Some evidence suggests that prednisone during pregnancy may contribute to the risk of having a low birth weight baby.

However, the same study that showed no effect of IBD medications on preterm delivery also showed that IBD medications had no effect on birth weight.


The use of prednisone during pregnancy is associated with a slight increase in the risk of cleft lip or palate, low birth weight, and premature birth.

If your healthcare provider prescribes prednisone during pregnancy, it's because they feel the benefits outweigh the risks. Prednisone can help you keep your IBD under control during your pregnancy.

A Word From Verywell

The evidence is somewhat conflicting, indicating that much is still unknown regarding the risks to the fetus when you take prednisone during pregnancy.

However, most studies show the risks are low, and no studies on people with IBD have shown that prednisone presents a risk of major birth defects. Even so, it's recommended that you only use prednisone if it's clearly needed to treat your IBD.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. National Library of Medicine. Mother to Baby Fact Sheets:Prednisone/Prednisolone.

  5. University of Alberta IBD Clinic. Medications During Pregnancy.

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  7. de Jesus GR, Mendoza-Pinto C, de Jesus NR, et al. Understanding and managing pregnancy in patients with lupusAutoimmune Dis. 2015;2015:943490. doi:10.1155/2015/943490

  8. Shimada, H., Wakiya, R., Kanenishi, K. et al. Preterm birth is strongly affected by the glucocorticoid dose during pregnancy in women complicated by systemic lupus erythematosusArthritis Res Ther. 2022; 24(10). doi:10.1186/s13075-021-02699-1

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Additional Reading

By Amber J. Tresca
Amber J. Tresca is a freelance writer and speaker who covers digestive conditions, including IBD. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 16.