(NEW YORK) — As the popularity of weight-loss drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro continues to grow, some women are taking a closer look at whether the drugs could impact their chances of becoming pregnant.
Wynter Mitchell-Rohrbaugh told ABC News’ Good Morning America that she and her husband previously suffered four pregnancy losses in their quest to have a child. When the couple decided to turn to in-vitro fertilization, or IVF, Mitchell-Rohrbaugh said they hit another roadblock when a doctor told her she needed to lose 40 pounds before they could begin the process.
“I just kept thinking to myself, are you insane? I’m not a small person,” she said. “I’m a plus-size woman.”
For help losing the weight, Mitchell-Rohrbaugh said she turned to Ozempic, one of a class of drugs called GLP-1 RAs that help people produce insulin and lower the amount of sugar in the blood. The drugs work by slowing down movement of food through the stomach and curbing appetite, thereby causing weight loss.
Ozempic, made from a compound called semaglutide, is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat Type 2 diabetes, but some doctors prescribe it off-label for weight loss.
After using Ozempic for five months, Mitchell-Rohrbaugh said she had lost 40 pounds.
She went off the medication and began fertility treatment. Mitchell-Rohrbaugh said she then had a successful round of IVF, one that produced viable embryos.
“To get to that call, ‘Wynter, hi, I have good news,’ I just I never thought I was going to hear that,” Mitchell-Rohrbaugh said.
What to know about weight loss drugs and fertility
Because semaglutide, the compound used in Ozempic and Wegovy, and tirzepatide, the compound used in Mounjaro, are relatively new on the market — approved by the FDA within the last five years to treat Type 2 diabetes and obesity — there is still research to be done on exactly how they impact women of childbearing age, experts say.
“We need to collect the information and ascertain that it’s safe in this indication and that it’s going to be working for us,” Dr. Richard Paulson, a California-based board-certified reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist, told GMA.
The FDA says in its safety profiles of Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro that they should not be taken during pregnancy, noting there is “insufficient data” available.
The FDA also explains that the drugs could cause weight loss, and that “weight loss offers no benefit to a pregnant patient and may cause fetal harm.”
The agency recommends that people discontinue treatment at least two months before they plan to become pregnant.
Going off of the medications should be done under the supervision of a medical provider, just as when you start the medications, experts say.
A person who becomes pregnant unexpectedly while taking one of these drugs should contact their healthcare provider, who can help them transition off the medication and make sure they are receiving proper maternal care.
The FDA will monitor any cases where women are exposed to semaglutide (found in Wegovy and Ozempic) during pregnancy. The agency says pregnant women who are impacted and health care providers should contact the drug’s manufacturer.
Prior to pregnancy, drugs like Ozempic, Mounjaro and Wegovy can be very effective in helping people with Type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar levels and get to a healthy weight, which can be critical for a healthy pregnancy, according to Dr. Sarah Lassey, a board-certified OB-GYN and co-director of the diabetes in pregnancy program at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“We know that poorly controlled diabetes during pregnancy is associated with [adverse] maternal and fetal outcomes in a pregnancy,” Lassey told GMA earlier this year, noting those risks can include miscarriage, birth defect, stillbirth and preeclampsia. “Our way to prevent any of these adverse outcomes is to control blood glucose levels and hemoglobin A1c in the time prior to conceiving as well as throughout the pregnancy.”
Lassey said there is not enough long-term research at this point to know how the medications may impact fertility.
“We just don’t know,” she said, adding, “However, we know that when people have better blood sugar control and things like that, they have lower rates of miscarriage and improvement in their fertility, typically.”
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