Prednisone is a prescription drug that helps relieve swelling, redness, itching, and allergic reactions in the immune system. It’s used to help treat conditions like asthma, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and other inflammatory conditions.

Some studies have shown that taking prednisone while pregnant or breastfeeding carries risks for both the mother and baby.

If you’re pregnant and currently taking prednisone, you may need to slowly reduce your dosage. Don’t suddenly stop taking it without talking to your doctor first.

What is prednisone?

Prednisone falls under a category of medications called corticosteroids. It’s a synthetic steroid that helps replace steroids that your body isn’t naturally producing. Prednisone works to reduce inflammation.

You may be prescribed prednisone if you experience:

  • Skin rashes or severe allergic reactions
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Certain types of arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Lupus
  • Certain types of cancer
  •  Asthma

What are the risks of taking prednisone while pregnant?

There’s no strong evidence that taking prednisone while pregnant has any harmful side effects. However, some studies connect the use of prednisone and other corticosteroids to complications that can affect the development of a fetus.

A 2005 study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that women who took corticosteroids to treat asthma during pregnancy had babies with a slightly lower birth weight than those who did not.

A 2018 review found that older studies of prednisone use in pregnancy reported an increased risk of oral clefts in newborns. However, more recent studies haven’t replicated these findings.

Prednisone in breast milk

According to the National Library of Medicine, there’s no evidence that taking prednisone while breastfeeding causes harm to the baby.

However, there’s a chance that small amounts of the drug may show up in your breast milk. If you’re concerned about this, talk to your doctor or wait a few hours after taking prednisone to breastfeed.

Other side effects of prednisone while pregnant 

Prednisone has been known to have general side effects that impact anyone who takes it, including those who are pregnant.

Some notable side effects are:

  • Weight gain
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Increased hair growth
  • Acne
  • Mood changes
  • Difficulty sleeping

Sometimes, more serious side effects may occur. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of these while taking prednisone:

  • Eye pain or vision problems
  • Sore throat or cough
  • Fever or chills
  • Seizures or muscle twitching
  • Depression
  • Numbness or burning in the arms or legs

Sometimes, more serious side effects may occur, such as confusion or vomiting. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of these while taking prednisone:

Prednisone dosage 

Prednisone is taken orally as a tablet, delayed-release tablet, liquid solution, or concentrated solution. You should only take prednisone if your doctor prescribes it.

The dosage amount and schedule your doctor prescribes will depend on your specific needs.

What if I miss a dose?

You shouldn’t double your dose if you miss one. Take the dose as soon as you remember unless the time is closer to your next dose. 

Don’t stop taking prednisone without first talking to your doctor.

IBD and pregnancy

If you have IBD and are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk to your doctor. Prednisone is commonly used to help treat IBD but may carry risks depending on the severity of the condition. 

Most people with IBD experience a healthy pregnancy and have a healthy baby. However, at times, your doctor may recommend that your IBD be in remission before getting pregnant. When your IBD is in remission, symptoms are reduced or no longer present.

Reducing inflammation from IBD is a key factor in making sure a pregnancy is as healthy as possible. Some evidence suggests that women with more severe IBD have a higher risk for premature delivery or having an infant with low birth weight.

There are different medications to help manage IBD inflammation if a pregnancy is unplanned.

The takeaway

Talk to your doctor if you take prednisone and are pregnant, are planning to become pregnant, or are currently breastfeeding. You may need to lower your dosage or stop taking prednisone if this is the case.

Severe cases of IBD and high doses of prednisone may lead to risks during pregnancy. Tell your doctor about any existing health conditions you have or medications you take before starting prednisone.