Pregnant women need to take precautions with medication. Gabapentin can be safe to take in some circumstances while pregnant.
Talk to your doctor about your particular situation.
Known by the brand names Neurontin or Horizant, gabapentin is an anticonvulsant that is often prescribed to people with epilepsy. It can slow activity in the brain to prevent seizures.
People who have nerve pain are often prescribed this medication because it can also change how they respond to or sense pain.
Gabapentin does not cure pain or epilepsy; it only treats these conditions.
Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should talk to their doctor about gabapentin before starting to use it.
Gabapentin and Pregnancy
The UK’s National Health Service says that women who are pregnant should take certain precautions if they take gabapentin.
- You should continue to take gabapentin as directed when you find out you are pregnant but disclose your pregnancy to your doctor immediately.
- Epilepsy must be treated during pregnancy to prevent seizures that could be harmful to unborn babies.
- You may have to take folic acid to help your baby grow normally.
- You should disclose whether or not you are taking gabapentin around the baby’s birth so they can be monitored after birth.
Though this is rare, babies can be born with dependence on this medication. If you are interested in tapering off the drug, you can discuss this with your primary care doctor or obstetrician.
A small 2013 study published by Neurology showed that gabapentin has not yet been linked to risk in malformations in babies from mothers who have taken this medication. More data is needed, but this is not considered a concern at this time.
Misuse of Gabapentin
Pharmacy Times states that gabapentin is sometimes abused. It is known to cause feelings of withdrawal even in people who use it as directed.
Between 1993 and 2015, there were 18 reported cases of patients who had misused or become dependent on gabapentin. The numbers could be higher than this, according to a 2018 report from the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Coroners found that gabapentin was found in approximately a third of overdose deaths in the states where these fatalities were recorded. Lawmakers reacted by making the medication a controlled substance within the state.
State officials found that some people were using gabapentin to make their high from opioid medication stronger, and some people were combining it with heroin. For women who are pregnant, engaging in this behavior causes even more complications.
Data is Not Available on the Use of Gabapentin in Pregnant Women, but a Few Things are Known:
- A normal amount of gabapentin for a healthy individual is between 1800 mg and 3600 mg per day, according to Pharmacy Times.
- People with health complications can take as little as 600 mg per day to control pain symptoms.
Pharmacy Times reports that people with certain conditions, such as renal failure or who are on dialysis, may be able to reduce their gabapentin consumption significantly if a doctor orders this. NHS says that doctors may reduce your prescription during the first trimester of pregnancy.
People who take other substances, including alcohol, are more susceptible to using gabapentin for recreational reasons. Some patients even report using it relieve symptoms of cocaine withdrawal.
Data concludes that gabapentin withdrawal is possible. You can start feeling symptoms anywhere from 12 hours to seven days after your last dose. The average onset for symptoms is 24 to 48 hours.
The Following are Common Symptoms to Look Out For:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Fast heartbeat
- A rise in blood pressure
- Increased sweating
Most people who went into withdrawal did so unintentionally. In many cases, patients left their medication home during a trip or ran out of gabapentin before they could get a refill.
Most of the time doctors were able to end withdrawal symptoms by instructing patients to take the medication on schedule again.
If you have been on gabapentin in high doses because of a medical condition, your doctor will address the following before creating a tapering schedule:
- The possibility of switching to another medication
- Discussion of the risks of quitting gabapentin, including the return of seizures, nerve pain, or dependence of opioids
Use of a tapering schedule depends on how you have been using gabapentin. If you have been misusing it before or during your pregnancy or using it along with other substances, you may need additional treatment along with slowly decreasing your dose of gabapentin.
Your doctor or obstetrician can provide information on decreasing your dose before giving birth or offer a referral so you can get proper treatment.
Women who are pregnant have specific needs when they are tapering from a medication or seeking treatment for drug misuse. Treatment for abuse of gabapentin has not yet been standardized, but help is available.
The National Industry on Drug Abuse mentions that women who are pregnant need to combine their treatment with prenatal care. Other basic things to look for with treatment for gabapentin misuse are:
Pregnant women have unique needs. Treatment must be tailored to their medical needs.
Drug misuse is complex and known to change the brain’s structure over time. Pregnant women who may relapse during treatment need access to help if this occurs
Medication, if Necessary
People who take gabapentin may also be misusing other substances, such as opioids. They may need medication such as methadone or buprenorphine to deal with withdrawal. However, treatment facilities should explain the possibility that your newborn may be born with symptoms of withdrawal. They should work with your obstetrician, so your baby can be monitored after birth
Care for Underlying Causes
Some people misuse substances because they are self-medicating for mental health issues that have not been addressed. As such, treatment may require therapy in either an individual or group setting that helps you understand the true reasons for your misuse
Access to Detox Services
A tapering approach is often used to get off the drug safely. Medical professionals can help you avoid withdrawal symptoms, and this is particularly important for pregnant women.
Use of gabapentin as instructed is probably not a problem for many pregnant women. Doctors can help you determine what a correct dose is. If needed, they can help you taper your dose at a sensible pace.
If you have epilepsy, it must be treated to protect you and your unborn child. If gabapentin isn’t the best option, discuss alternatives with your doctor.
If you have been using gabapentin for recreational reasons, you’ll need addiction treatment. Look for a program that is equipped to treat pregnant women, as this requires specialized care.