You may have heard about Ozempic in the news recently. Discussion around the drug gives the impression that it’s a quick way to get “Hollywood thin," with some even dubbing it the “diet plan of the one percent." But Ozempic was not created for this purpose — it’s actually a drug used to treat diabetes, and it plays a vital role in helping some people manage the disease.
As Ozempic makes more and more headlines, it’s important to discuss its safety during pregnancy — and pinpoint the best way for people who use these drugs to avoid exposure during the very earliest part of pregnancy.
First things first: What is Ozempic?
While Ozempic is the drug name you’ve probably heard, it’s not the only medication of its kind.
The class of drugs includes Ozempic, Mounjaro, and Wegovy. Ozempic and Mounjaro are used to treat diabetes, while Wegovy has an FDA indication for weight loss in patients who are clinically obese.
“I think there’s a difference between how it has been portrayed in the use for celebrities, who may not necessarily need weight loss medications and are giving this impression that it’s a quick fix for them or a fix for an already [thin] body to become hyper-thin,” says OB/GYN Staci Tanouye, MD. “That impression that has been on social media recently is obviously the wrong direction. We don’t necessarily want to glorify hyper-thin bodies or use of this medication in healthy individuals that have, by medical standards, normal BMIs.”
What are the side effects of Ozempic?
“The side effects most people are concerned about are the GI side effects. So nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea,” says Dr. Tanouye. “Some people can manage this quite well and do fine with it, while others have significant GI effects. Those are the primary ones that cause people to stop the medication or make it difficult for others to use.”
But for people who are pregnant, there are greater concerns.
What’s the risk of taking Ozempic while pregnant?
The bottom line is this: Ozempic’s safety during pregnancy just hasn’t been studied for long enough in humans, according to Dr. Tanouye.
“So far animal studies have shown some adverse effects on growth and development. The older medications have some skeletal anomalies and such,” she says. “But to be honest, animal studies aren’t the end all be all. Humans are very different from animals; we see it frequently when animal studies are showing one thing and human studies show another.”
Is Ozempic safe to take when trying to conceive?
In order to avoid early exposure during pregnancy, it’s best to avoid Ozempic and the like when trying to conceive — the recommendation is that anyone who is on the medication should come off of it two months before they begin trying.
“The half-life of Ozempic is seven days, so that’s just enough time to get the medication mostly out of their system, because any medication, usually you want at least five half-lives to clear it from your body,” says Dr. Tanouye.
The recommendation is that anyone who is on one of these medications for diabetes control to see their doctor to talk about switching to an alternative medication, like insulin. For people who are using the medication for weight loss, coming up with a holistic plan that includes dietary and lifestyle factors is key, as weight rebound after coming off the medication can occur.
One thing to note: No one should stop taking these medications without a doctor’s supervision.
“With any medication, especially if you’re using it for type two diabetes control, stopping anything like that cold turkey is not what we want to do because glucose control is really important in the early stages of pregnancy,” says Dr. Tanouye. “So we want to be mindful of that, we want to switch under the guidance of a physician.”
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What if you have an unplanned pregnancy while on Ozempic?
Unplanned pregnancies happen, and sometimes they happen to people who are on Ozempic or a related medication before they’re off the drugs.
But those people shouldn’t panic.
“I think there are a couple of case reports out there that show exposure in the first trimester and there were a couple of healthy pregnancies that resulted. So I wouldn’t panic at this point,” says Dr. Tanouye. I think it’s prudent to just talk to your doctor [if you become pregnant while on the medication], especially if you’re on it for type two diabetes. Don’t make any dramatic switch, because uncontrolled type two diabetes has significant risks in and of itself. So stay on your medication, but contact your doctor to come up with a plan of how to transition off of it.”
Can Ozempic affect fertility?
At this point, there’s no reason to believe Ozempic, Mounjaro, or Wegovy will negatively affect a person’s ability to get pregnant.
With that being said, if you’re considering trying to conceive and are on these medications, a call or visit to your doctor might be in order.
Zara Hanawalt is a freelance journalist and mom of twins. She's written for outlets like Parents, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Motherly, and many others. In her (admittedly limited!) free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, trying new restaurants, and traveling with her family.