An excessive accumulation of fats / lipids can lead to cardiac arrests or heart failures. Of the various types of fats, low density lipoproteins (LDL) cause the maximum harm. These fats can narrow your blood vessels and make it difficult for blood to flow freely through such arteries. If left untreated, your arteries may shrink further and may increase blood pressure levels. A class of drugs known as bile acid sequestrants help decrease lipids and fats which build up into cholesterol. Cholestyramine is a drug which belongs to this genre. But, can women who are pregnant use it? It is important to know about such usage prior to starting your medication plan.

Your liver makes bile acids to help digest fats and lipids. But, if the liver is deprived of fats in your blood, it would instead use cholesterol to make these acids. This forms the core idea behind bile acid sequestrants. In short, these drugs block or control the secretion of bile acids and in turn, reduce your cholesterol level. Such drugs are not prescribed immediately upon diagnosing high cholesterol levels in your blood. The first step is to alter your dietary plan, and eliminate unhealthy / fat-rich foods from your daily diet. A regular workout / exercise plan is also provided. Upon sensing a high level of cholesterol – i.e., despite these changes to your lifestyle, drugs such as statins or bile acid sequestrants are prescribed.

Cholestyramine is available both in a powder form and as pills. Powdered version is taken with liquids such as water, fruit juices or soups. On the other hand, pills are swallowed by drinking a lot of water. Your cholesterol reduction treatment may have multiple aspects to it – including, intake of drugs like cholestyramine, reduction of stress, stopping the use of tobacco products, etc. A few points need to be shared with your treating doctor prior to taking this drug; these include pre-existence of stomach ulcers, being allergic to the drug’s active ingredients, planning to go for a dental or surgical intervention, etc.

Intake of cholestyramine by women who are pregnant

The effects of this drug and the impact of its active ingredients on pregnant women have not been fully evidenced. Clinical research – done in extremely controlled environment – on women during early stages of pregnancy could not conclude any adverse effects on newly born babies. But, research performed so far has been done only on very small sample sizes. In general, the drug is known to absorb essential nutrients – such as vitamins; this may deprive your newly born infant from receiving needful supplements for growth.

As mentioned, very limited number of studies has so far been done to establish the safety of this drug on pregnant women. The findings of such studies do not prove any likely risks of miscarriage or other damages to your fetus. In some one-off instances, there have been reports of stillborn infants; but, the inferences are not conclusive about a possible link between stillbirths and intake of cholestyramine. Another likely risk is the ability of this drug to reduce your vitamin K level. This risk factor can lead to bleeding conditions – among women and their newly born babies. Pregnant women are advised to take vitamin K supplements while taking this bile acid sequestrant. As a safety precaution, periodic blood tests are recommended to assess possible deficiencies of K vitamin.

Brain development of the child in your womb continues to happen even during the end stages of your pregnancy. Studies done on this area however do not conclude any changes in brain function of infants. But, more research is needed on this front; especially, to understand the health of brain activity in children when they grow up into teens or adults.

A few safety precautions associated with the consumption of cholestyramine

It is highly recommended to adhere to all the instructions provided by your caregivers. Purchase of this drug is always accompanied by a prescription i.e., it is never taken as an over the counter med. Keep your doctor informed of your prior illnesses and clinical conditions; especially, those who are living with hepatic conditions (like hepatitis or cirrhosis of liver) or blockages in your intestine / bleeding internally need to share these conditions with their treating physician.

Upon having bowel problems – such as difficulties to discharge stools, acidity, gas formation, etc., the pharmacist as well as your treating doctor must be made aware of these conditions. Foremost of all precautions, consult with your medical team prior to taking doses of cholestyramine. This drug needs a lot of liquids (such as water or juices of fruits); so, ensure to drink needful amounts of water or other fluids as part of your medication plan. Pregnant women are advised to talk to their gynecologist to know more on how to safely take this drug.

Cholestyramine is likely to interact adversely when consumed with other drugs; so, make a list of all the drugs you are currently taking. As an added precaution, share more details about your treatment plans with your caregiving team. If you observe flatulence, bloating or internal blockages, irregular movements of bowel, consult with your medical team as quickly as you possibly can. Apart from pregnant women, if a section of your bowel is already removed (surgically) – urgent medical help may be needed upon noticing these symptoms.

In general, adverse effects / allergies of cholestyramine on pregnant women are not fully evidenced. Research done on safety of this drug on pregnant women remains limited. What is however clear is – intake of this drug may deprive pregnant women and their new born baby to access needful nutrients. Hence, your caregiver may provide added nutrients – in the form of supplements – to avoid inadequate supply of vitamins or other forms of nutrition. Above all, if you develop any side effects – report about them to your medical team immediately. Pregnant women may call 911 if you are in the US upon observing any severe side effects. You may also seek from the emergency hotline of the food and drug administration (FDA). If you are living in any of the Canadian provinces, establish quick contact with a poison control center or call Health Canada.

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