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Some turn to weight-loss medications hoping to prepare for healthier pregnancies

Using weight-loss drugs before pregnancy
Rise in use of weight-loss drugs before pregnancy 06:06

More people are using weight-loss medications to improve their health, including women who hope to lower the chances of complications when they become pregnant.

"Obesity and being overweight are definitely risk factors for multiple adverse outcomes in pregnancy," said Dr. Ilana Ramer Bass, an assistant professor in the division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at Mount Sinai Morningside and West in New York. She also leads the Mount Sinai Morningside Weight Loss Program.

Those increased risk factors include early spontaneous miscarriages and congenital abnormalities, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and cardiac dysfunction. Maternal obesity can also heighten difficulties with labor and postpartum recovery, Bass said.

"We do try to have people enter pregnancy at a healthier weight, and so having these medications gives us a tool to allow women to lose weight prior to conceiving," she said.

The Food and Drug Administration recommends avoiding weight-loss drugs during pregnancy, and there is currently no data to support the use of the medications after conception.

Some of the popular drugs, including Ozempic and Mounjaro, were created to help diabetics regulate their blood sugar. Other medications on the market, like Wegovy and Zepbound, are tools meant to help with weight management.

According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. are considered obese. While the drugs are effective, patients may experience side effects. Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea.

Bass said patients should stop using weight-loss medications two to three months before trying to conceive. That allows for a "washout period" that will flush the medications out of the body. If a woman accidentally becomes pregnant while taking a weight-loss medication, it is recommended she immediately go off the drug.

While weight-loss medications can be helpful for people who fit the description of their intended uses, the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, which is behind Mounjaro, has released a new ad calling out people who use them for "vanity."

The Hollywood-themed ad lined up with the star-studded Oscars ceremony on Sunday night, saying "it matters who gets" the medications. High demand increased by people looking to slim down has led to shortages.

"I think these medications need to be used by the people who actually benefit from them," Bass said, "and there's clearly a benefit for people who have obesity, or who have type 2 diabetes, and they should be used for those people."

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