Unplanned ‘Ozempic Babies’ Are on the Rise — but the Drug Can Cause ‘Pregnancy Complications'

The popular weight-loss drug may increase fertility — but getting pregnant while taking the medication comes with a risk

<p>Joel Saget/AFP/Getty</p> Stock photo of Ozempic.

Joel Saget/AFP/Getty

Stock photo of Ozempic.

Women are reporting that they’ve unexpectedly become pregnant — even after struggling with infertility — while taking semaglutide, known widely by the brand names Ozempic and Wegovy. But taking semaglutide during pregnancy can be unsafe, doctors warn, and even the manufacturer says you should not take it if you’re planning to become pregnant.

“Pregnancy or intention to become pregnant were exclusion criteria in our trials with semaglutide in both obesity and type 2 diabetes,” a representative for the drug manufacturer Novo Nordisk told PEOPLE via email. “Therefore, there are limited clinical trial data with semaglutide use in pregnant women.”

However, “the drug is known to cause pregnancy complications and abnormalities in animal studies, and so women planning to be pregnant should be advised not to take them,” Ying Cheong, professor of reproductive medicine at Southampton University, told The Times.

<p>Getty</p> Stock photo of a pregnant woman and her doctor.


Stock photo of a pregnant woman and her doctor.

And Professor Tricia Tan, from the department of metabolism, digestion and reproduction at Imperial College London, told the outlet that “these drugs should not be used during pregnancy.”

“Animal studies did show that the animal babies born to animals who were given these medications had problems.”

This guidance is reiterated by Novo Nordisk, which told PEOPLE “it is recommended to discontinue Wegovy in women at least 2 months before a planned pregnancy due to the long washout period for semaglutide.”

Related: Costco's $179 Weight-Loss Program May Help You Get an Ozempic Prescription

The rep added “there may be potential risks to the fetus from exposure to semaglutide during pregnancy. Additionally, weight loss offers no benefit to a pregnant patient and may cause fetal harm. When a pregnancy is recognized, pregnant patients should be advised of the risk to a fetus, and discontinue Wegovy.”

But the problem is that many of these pregnancies aren’t planned — and as The Times points out, doctors are prescribing it off-label to treat other illnesses, like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

And these drugs can, indeed, increase fertility, Dr. Iman Saleh, an obstetrician and gynecologist, and Director of Obesity Medicine at the Bariatrics Department at Northwell, told PEOPLE.

<p>Mario Tama/Getty</p> Stock photo of Ozempic.

Mario Tama/Getty

Stock photo of Ozempic.

“Even if it's a 5, 10 lbs. weight loss, this can actually have patients resume ovulation and be able to get pregnant,” Saleh told PEOPLE.

There may also be an interaction between how the weight-loss medication works and how birth control is processed in the body, she told PEOPLE.

Related: Do Not Take Knockoff Ozempic, FDA Says

"There is a component with the decreased gastric emptying or the slowing of the gut. As we use these medications to make people make fuller, the absorption changes in our body. And therefore the absorption of patients on birth control can affect the efficacy of the birth control.”

As a rep for Novo Nordisk told PEOPLE, “we always like to reinforce the FDA-approved indications for Wegovy and Ozempic wherever possible,” adding that Ozempic is FDA-approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, while Wegovy is FDA approved “to reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events such as death, heart attack, and stroke in adults with known heart disease and either obesity or overweight.”

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