Antipsychotic medicines can increase a woman’s risk of gestational diabetes

If you’re expecting, you already have a lot to worry about. Sometimes ensuring that you avoid all of the dangerous foods and chemicals that can put your baby at risk can feel like a full-time job. Now, pregnant women who take antipsychotic drugs have one more thing to worry about in the form of a higher risk of gestational diabetes.

As many as one out of 10 pregnancies in the U.S. is affected by gestational diabetes. Like other types of diabetes, it affects the way that cells use glucose and causes high blood sugar. Although the condition strikes women during pregnancy, around half of the women who have gestational diabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes in the years after their pregnancy. The condition is also linked to negative pregnancy outcomes such as cesarean delivery, macrosomia, neonatal hypoglycemia, and preeclampsia.

A new study published in the American Journal Psychiatry shows that pregnant women who take antipsychotic drugs have a higher chance of developing gestational diabetes. This isn’t surprising when you consider the fact that these drugs also have metabolic side effects in the general population. Treatments for conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have long been associated with diabetes and weight gain, particularly drugs like ziprasidone, risperidone, quetiapine, olanzapine, and aripiprazole.

The researchers made their conclusions after analyzing the records of pregnant women without diabetes who were enrolled in Medicaid in the years from 2000 and 2010 and given prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs during the three months prior to becoming pregnant. Over the 1.5 million pregnant women studied, 1,924 women were taking aripiprazole, 4,533 were taking quetiapine, 1,425 were taking olanzapine, 1,824 were taking risperidone, and 673 took ziprasidone.

They found that two of these drugs led to a statistically significant higher risk of gestational diabetes when compared to the women who stopped taking these medications. Specifically, those taking olanzapine – also known as Zyprexa – had a 61 percent higher chance of developing gestational diabetes; this amounted to 4.4 extra cases for every 100 women treated. Meanwhile, those who took quetiapine – also known as Seroquel – had a 28 percent higher risk, which corresponded to 1.6 additional cases for every 100 women treated.

The study senior author, epidemiologist Dr. Krista F. Huybrechts of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said: “Clinicians must weigh the benefits of staying on a stable regimen against the risks of continuing treatment with a higher-risk atypical antipsychotic during pregnancy to make an informed decision about the best course of treatment for the patient in question.

Despite the many safety questions about the use of antipsychotic drugs and pregnancy, higher numbers of women are opting to take these medications while they’re expecting.

It’s not just pregnant women who need to watch out for antipsychotic drugs

Antipsychotics have also been shown to raise the risk of diabetes in young people. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry showed that young people who took antipsychotic drugs for 12 weeks noted clinically significant increases in body fat and drops in insulin sensitivity. These drugs are commonly used among this age group to treat conditions like ADHD among children who do not show improvements from stimulants.

Another reason you might want to avoid antipsychotic drugs is the fact that studies have shown they raise the risk of stroke in all patients. Antipsychotics are associated with a 40 percent higher stroke risk in patients without dementia; that risk is 200 percent higher in those patients who do have dementia.

It’s always a good idea to carry out some research and seek alternative opinions before committing to taking antipsychotics, and if you’re pregnant, you need to be particularly vigilant when it comes to these and all medications. Read more at

Sources for this article include:

comments powered by Disqus