Posted by The Vigilant Mom on March 19, 2012
Most people by now have heard about the possible problems with taking drugs like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) in pregnancy. But what if you are prescribed another kind of drug, a drug like olanzapine? Called an atypical antipsychotic, olanzapine (also known as Zyprexa) is used to a variety of disorders including manic depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It’s not labeled an SSRI, it’s not labeled an SNRI. So it is safe to take during pregnancy?
There seems to be no definitive answer, but we do know that olanzapine has been classified as a Category C drug by the Food and Drug Administration. Category C means no human testing has been performed, but in lab tests on animals, olanzapine did appear to cause harm to fetuses. Category C can be a very frustrating label for that very reason: It doesn’t tell us definitively that something is a no-no, but it does tell us to beware.
Here’s what we do know about olanzapine and its possible effects on babies who were exposed in utero: If mothers took olanzapine in their third trimester, their babies had a chance of suffering from uncontrolled muscle movements, as well as symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms include breathing and feeding difficulties, hyper- or hypotonia, and tremors. Some of these symptoms resolve themselves over time, but others can require medical intervention, including time in an intensive care unit. Additionally, most experts advise new moms who are taking olanzapine not to breastfeed as the drug does enter the breast milk.
Olanzapine seems like a drug pregnant women should be wary of, but it’s important to remember that untreated mood disorders like manic depression and bipolar disorder can also cause problems in pregnancy. If you are pregnant and considering treatment with olanzapine, talk to your doctor about the risks versus the benefits.