Taking sumatriptan during pregnancy & when breastfeeding

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Many women experience an increase in migraines during pregnancy or whilst breastfeeding. Often associated with fluctuations in hormone levels, sumatriptan is commonly prescribed to help reduce the severity of pain from migraine headaches.  

Also sold under the brand name Imigran, sumatriptan works on the pain signals that cause migraines. Although the medication cannot prevent a migraine, sumatriptan works by reducing pain associated with migraines. Taking the drug will also help alleviate symptoms that occur in tandem with a migraine, such as vomiting, nausea or sensitivities to sound and light. 

For pregnant women or those with a new born, the stress of carrying or having a child — combined with a lack of sleep and overnight change of routine – can exacerbate the occurrence of migraines and their associated symptoms. Those seeking relief may consult their doctor or medical professional, who can prescribe sumatriptan in 50mg or 100mg doses. In the UK, the 50mg pill version of the medication may also be purchased over the counter in limited quantities.

Within 30 to 60 minutes of taking the pill version of sumatriptan, blood vessels within the brain are narrowed, stopping pain signals from being released and preventing nausea-inducing chemicals from being transmitted. A fast-acting nasal spray and injectable version of the drug are also available.

This article will examine the effectiveness of sumatriptan as a recovery after experiencing the onset of a migraine headache, and outline the possibility of any risks or side effects associated with taking the medication.

Migraines during pregnancy

Hormone levels, anxiety, and other day-to-day complications associated with pregnancy can enhance the risk of suffering from a migraine. Changes to oestrogen levels during pregnancy – may also play a role in increasing the frequency and duration of painful episodes. And whilst a particular smell or light sensitivity could trigger a pain response one day, it may not the next. 

There’s really no rhyme or reason as to when a woman’s next migraine will occur. Thankfully, modern science has yielded options to reduce discomfort once it does.  

Paracetamol and ibuprofen may provide relief from mild headaches, but these common household medications rarely take the edge off of a migraine. For these and other reasons, many women turn to triptans. But can you take sumatriptan if you are pregnant?

Can you take sumatriptan during pregnancy?

Triptans such as sumatriptan offer more comprehensive relief than standard over the counter painkiller, and have become one of the most popular migraine treatments as a result. Studies suggest that taking triptans during pregnancy pose no conclusive risk of increasing new born brain defects above baseline rates. 

The true risk however, remains unknown. This is because trials on pregnant are limited.

If you’re pregnant and concerned about the safety of taking triptans, consult your doctor or healthcare professional. They’ll be able to offer an informed opinion of whether or not the medication is suitable for you.

Will taking sumatriptan increase the chances of a miscarriage?

Several studies have been conducted examining the effects of taking sumatriptan in relation to a risk of miscarriage or adverse pregnancy outcome. At present time, there is no information that suggests women taking the drug in pill, nasal spray or injectable dosages, are more likely to suffer a miscarriage than non-users.

Can sumatriptan increase the risk of birth defects?

There is no research that conclusively links a risk of pregnancy complication or birth defect to triptan medications.

Teratogenicity is the study of agents or factors that can lead to malformations in embryos. Taken from the Greek word ‘teras,’ or ‘monster,’ this particular field of medicine examines defects that affect the physiological development of babies in the womb.

One study examined the effects of the drugs sumatriptan over the course of a sixteen year registry. During the prolonged observation period, no increased risk of teratogens in relation to their usage were determined.

Can I take sumatriptan if I am trying for a baby?

There is no scientific evidence linking sumatriptan to a decrease in fertility. Both men and women may be prescribed Imigran or sumatriptan tablets, nasal sprays or injections. Taking the medication to reduce the symptoms of a migraine has not been proven to decrease sexual potency amongst individuals attempting to conceive.

If you have questions regarding the safety of sumatriptan whilst trying to have a baby, consult your doctor or healthcare professional.

Can I take sumatriptan if I am breastfeeding?

Once your healthcare professional has determined that your baby is healthy, you can resume or begin taking sumatriptan. The medication may help reduce the pain associated with migraines that arise due to a lack of sleep, hormone fluctuations, or the stress that comes with caring for your new born.

Only trace amounts of the drug pass into the breast milk, and there should be no negative effects resulting from taking the medication whilst nursing. If you’re concerned about transferring the medication to the baby, simply refrain from breastfeeding for 12 hours after taking sumatriptan. 

If you observe changes to your new-born’s behaviour – prolonged sleeping habits, an upset stomach or other concerns – notify your doctor, midwife or associated caregivers immediately.

The bottom line

Taking sumatriptan whilst breastfeeding is usually safe, provided there is a 12 hour gap. If you are pregnant and wish to take sumatriptan, you should visit your doctor. They will make an informed decision, taking into consideration the risk to baby, and your quality of life.

Before taking any drug, it is recommended you talk to a licensed medical professional or healthcare provider to determine if the medication is right for you.

Whilst all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it is not intended to be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please speak to your doctor.