Many women suffer from migraines and may worry about Imitrex and miscarriage, but the two don't necessarily go together. That said, there is no perfectly safe drug for use during pregnancy and it's always good to be cautious.
Some Basic Definitions
Migraines: These are far worse than a typical headache. Migraines can last anywhere from a few hours to even days. The headache is caused by dilation and inflammation of the brain's blood vessels which causes extreme localized throbbing pain on one side of the head. Other common symptoms of a migraine include nausea, vomiting, and some people experience thought clarity, a craving for sweets, or sensitivity to light. The most unique migraine marker is the pre-migraine sensation of seeing bright spots, light flashes, or areas of blindness.
Imitrex: Imitrex is the brand name of a drug called Sumatriptan. Imitrex is a selective serotonin receptor agonist and was the first official triptan medication. Basically, those are a lot of fancy words that mean that Imitrex is effective at constricting blood vessels, stopping the dilation of vessels that causes throbbing migraine pain. Triptans also usually have properties that can help the symptoms of the migraine.
There are other drugs to treat migraines available such as ergotamine, but Imitrex is considered the best. Imitrex is available in oral, nasal, and injection form.
Miscarriage: A miscarriage is a spontaneous delivery of a fetus. Usually this occurs before the 28th week of pregnancy. Causes of miscarriage are highly debated. Some people blame drugs, environmental toxins, or a mother's activity patterns. Technically, there is no one cause of miscarriage. It's been noted that often a baby will miscarry if the baby has a severe abnormality. Other research shows that miscarriages are more common among mothers who develop high fevers or who have the flu.
Is Imitrex and Miscarriage An Issue You Should Worry About?
Yes, to a point. Imitrex has never been proven as a having a direct link to miscarriage as a stand-alone drug. But almost all drugs can pose a threat during pregnancy.
Imitrex and miscarriage is a complex topic and one reason is because of drug labeling. Each and every drug has a pregnancy rating assigned to it by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The problem is that these drug ratings are sadly outdated. For instance, Imitrex is a category C label. What this means according to the FDA is one of two things:
- "Animal studies have shown an adverse effect and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women." OR it may mean:
- "No animal studies have been conducted and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women."
So, you can see the dilemma when making a choice about whether or not to take this medication during pregnancy. To see all the FDA pregnancy drug ratings, you can take a look at this chart.
Back in 1997 there was a huge discussion among health care providers, the FDA, and other health organizations to change the pregnancy and FDA drug classifications to better reflect actual pregnancy issues. It's been seven years and still there's been no change. The problem is that some people assume a category A drug to be "best" and a category "X" drug to be the most dangerous. In actuality there is always a risk versus benefit to consider when taking a drug (pregnant or not).
What Research Says
Since pregnancy drug categories aren't all that useful but you want to know about Imitrex and miscarriage, what does one do? Tell your healthcare professional if you are trying to become pregnant, are already pregnant, or are breastfeeding. This leaves the decision in the hands of your care provide and you. A good care provider will turn to research before making a drug recommendation. However, current research is inconclusive.
- One Danish study points out that Imitrex may cause a significant threat to babies in terms of premature births and low birth weight babies. This is something to consider even if miscarriage isn't a factor. (Headache, 2000; 40: 20-4)
- As noted at NCBI, women taking sumatriptan are no more likely than the general population to give birth to a baby with birth defects. This conclusion was offered based on "accumulative data."
Notice how many studies there are the relationship between Imitrex and miscarriage. Very few. Hardly any real women-tested studies on Imitrex during pregnancy have been conducted.
Benefits of Imitrex Versus Risk
So does Imitrex increase your chances of miscarriage? It's unfortunately inconclusive. The best thing to do is discuss Imitrex with your prenatal care provider. Hopefully your care provider is up to date on the latest information regarding this medication.
Besides talking to your care provider, you should always consider the long-term risks to your baby versus the short or long term benefits to your health. You should do this before taking any drug during pregnancy. For instance, drugs during the first trimester are potentially more dangerous to a baby than drugs during another trimester because the first ten weeks after conception are when important baby development happens.
Also, there may be natural remedies you can try first before taking Imitrex. Weighing the benefits to you versus your baby means that if a headache is going to cause you undue stress, pain, and issues like poor nutrition and lack of sleep, then taking Imitrex may be the best thing for both you and your baby. Stress and other issues are not healthy for pregnancy either. If the stress of taking a medication causes you more stress than the headache, you can probably manage not taking it.