A new study suggests that pregnant women who take fluconazole to treat yeast infections may be more likely to have miscarriages than pregnant women who don’t take this pill — and high doses may be linked to heart defects in the baby.
The study was published on Feb. 19 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
According to Reuters and UPI, fluconazole, or diflucan, is a common oral antifungal medicine that is used to treat vaginal yeast infections. In the study, researchers noted that about one in 10 pregnant women will develop a yeast infection — up to 10 times more than in non-pregnant women.
The study examined 441,949 pregnancies in Quebec from 1998 to 2015. Pregnant women who took low doses of fluconazole — which the study defined as 150 milligrams — were over two times as likely to have a miscarriage than the women who didn’t take fluconazole at all during their pregnancy. Women who took even higher doses of fluconazole were more than three times as likely.
Taking higher doses — over 150 milligrams — during a woman’s first trimester was also linked to an 81 percent higher risk of having a baby with a heart defect.
“Regardless of dosage, oral fluconazole use is associated with the risk of spontaneous abortions,” said lead study author Anick Bérard of the University of Montreal in Quebec.
However, only the higher doses were linked to the heart defects, and researchers did not find that the drug was associated with a higher risk of stillbirth.
Researchers added that the main limitation of their study was missing information on potential factors including smoking, use of over-the-counter folic acid and alcohol intake.
Additionally, the analysis only included miscarriages that were diagnosed by a doctor; many women who miscarry early in pregnancy may not have their miscarriage detected or receive a diagnosis.
Dr. Vanessa Paquette, coauthor of an accompanying editorial and a pharmacy researcher at the University of British Columbia told Reuters that pregnant women should seek an alternative to fluconazole.
“The recommended treatment of choice in pregnancy for vaginal yeast infections are topical antifungal agents (clotrimazole, miconazole) that are administered via the vagina in the form of cream or vaginal tablet,” Paquette said. “These agents have been shown to be safe and effective in pregnant women. Oral fluconazole treatment for vaginal yeast infections in pregnant women should be avoided at this time.”
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