February 24, 2024

CLOCK: How Diet Drugs Affect Infertility

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 might be affecting their chances of getting pregnant.

Wynter Mitchell-Rohrbaugh told “Good Morning America” ​​that she and her husband suffered four miscarriages in their quest to have a child. When the couple decided to transition to IVF, or IVF, Mitchell-Rohrbaugh said she hit another hurdle when a doctor told her she needed to lose 40 pounds before they could begin the process.

“I kept thinking to myself, are you crazy? I’m not a small person,” she said. “I’m a plus-size woman.”

To help with weight loss, Mitchell-Rohrbaugh said she turned to Ozempic, one of a class of drugs called GLP-1 RA that help people make insulin and lower the amount of sugar in their blood. The drugs work by slowing the movement of food through the stomach and curbing the appetite, thus causing weight loss.

Ozempic, made with a compound called semaglutide, is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, but some doctors prescribe it off-label for weight loss.

VIDEO: How Diet Drugs Affect Infertility

After using Ozempic for five months, Mitchell-Rohrbaugh said she lost 40 pounds.

She stopped the treatment and started fertility treatment. Mitchell-Rohrbaugh said she then had a successful IVF cycle, one that produced viable embryos.

“To get to that call, ‘Wynter, hi, I have good news,’ I never thought I’d hear it,” Mitchell-Rohrbaugh said.

What to know about diet drugs and fertility

Because semaglutide, the compound used in Ozempic and Wegovy, and tirzepatide, the compound used in Mounjaro, are relatively new to the market — approved by the FDA within the last five years for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and obesity — there is still research to do about exactly how they impact women of childbearing age, experts say.

“We need to gather the information and make sure it’s safe in this indication and that it will work for us,” Dr. Richard Paulson, a California-based reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist.

The FDA says in its safety profiles of Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro that they shouldn’t be taken during pregnancy, noting that “insufficient data” is available.

The FDA also explains that the drugs could cause weight loss and that “weight loss offers no benefit to a pregnant patient and can cause harm to the fetus.”

MORE: People Describe Real-Life Side Effects of Popular Injectable Weight Loss Drugs

The agency recommends people stop treatment at least two months before planning to become pregnant.

Stopping medications should be done under the supervision of a doctor, just like when starting medications, experts say.

A person who becomes pregnant unexpectedly while taking one of these drugs should contact their doctor, who can help them transition off the drug and make sure they are getting adequate maternal care.

The FDA will monitor all instances where women are exposed to semaglutide (found in Wegovy and Ozempic) during pregnancy. The agency says pregnant women who are affected and health care professionals should contact the drug’s manufacturer.

Before pregnancy, medications such as Ozempic, Mounjaro and Wegovy can be very effective in helping people with type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar levels and reach a healthy weight, which can be key to a healthy pregnancy, according to the Dr. Sarah Lassey, a board-certified OB-GYN and co-director of the pregnancy diabetes program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

MORE: Is Ozempic Safe to Take While Pregnant or Trying to Conceive? The experts intervene

“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 that those risks can include miscarriage, birth defects, stillbirth and preeclampsia. “Our way to prevent any of these adverse outcomes is control of blood glucose levels and hemoglobin A1c in the time before conception and throughout pregnancy.”

Lassey said at this point there isn’t enough long-term research to know how medications might affect fertility.

“We just don’t know,” she said, adding, “However, we know that when people have better blood sugar control and stuff like that, they have lower rates of miscarriage and improvement in their fertility, generally.”

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