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Pregnancy health

Are Ozempic Babies Really a Thing?

Women on social media are reporting surprise pregnancies after taking Ozempic? Does the drug improve fertility and what to do if you get pregnant while taking it?

Are Ozempic Babies Really a Thing?

You may have seen the stories of surprise pregnancies following a stint on the popular weight-loss drug, but what do doctors say about the connection between the two—and what do parents need to know about the Ozempic baby boom?

What are ‘Ozempic babies’?

In a new trend many have dubbed “Ozempic babies,” people are reporting on social media that they are getting pregnant after (or while) using the wildly popular drug. TikTok is full of anecdotes from people taking Ozempic saying they accidentally conceived after years of infertility. Some after being explicitly told they could not get pregnant, and others while using birth control precautions.

“It’s not surprising,” says Dr. Naila Ramji, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist in Fredericton, N.B., and assistant professor at Dalhousie University. We don’t yet have large-scale studies showing this phenomenon is happening in a statistically significant way, but it adds up, she says.

Because of the connection between obesity and infertility (and weight loss and restored fertility), and the effects of the drug on the gastrointestinal system, which could interfere with oral medications (like birth control pills), it’s reasonable to draw a connection. “When you take all these factors together, you might see more pregnancies,” says Dr. Ramji.

Ozempic and another similar medication, Mounjaro, are part of a class of medications that mimic a protein in your body called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). These drugs mimic hormones in the gut related to insulin regulation and appetite.

They’re both approved to treat type 2 diabetes and have twin drugs, Wegovy and Zepbound, approved for weight loss. Due to record-setting high demand for the medications and ongoing supply shortages, all four drugs can be prescribed for weight loss. According to some estimates, between 900,000 and 1.4 million Canadians are taking these medications.

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Are Ozempic Babies Really a Thing?

How do anti-obesity drugs improve fertility?

Extra weight can mess with fertility because fat tissue produces excess estrogen, which creates abnormal hormone signalling. “The normal feedback mechanism that happens in the course of the usual menstrual cycle isn’t happening, throwing off how that system works,” says Dr. Ramji. The result can be irregular ovulation, unpredictable periods and few opportunities for conception—until the person loses weight.

“Weight loss restores ovulation and fertility in some women,” says Daniel Drucker, a senior scientist at the Lunenfeld Tanenbaum Research Institute in Toronto, who helped identify the hormone that gave rise to these medications. The GLP-1 drugs have been shown to help people lose significant amounts of weight—as much as 15 to 20 percent of a patient's body weight on average in clinical trials.

For a person with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which can often go hand-in-hand with obesity, doctors already recommend weight loss as a first-step treatment for infertility because the data has shown that shedding just 5 percent body weight will improve the odds of getting pregnant.

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Can medications like Ozempic render birth control pills less effective?

GLP-1 medications like Ozempic slow gastric emptying, which can affect medications that are taken orally and must pass through the GI tract. (The GLP-1 drugs are taken by self-administered injection.) “Absorption of the birth control pill might be less effective,” says Drucker. In fact, Mounjaro already comes with a warning label stating that oral birth control pills may not work as well while using this medication.

If you take oral contraceptives, you may wish to consider using another type of birth control that doesn’t rely on your gastrointestinal system to work properly while you are taking Ozempic or a similar medication, says Dr. Ramji. The IUD, the estrogen ring, and the birth control patch are all valid options.

Are Ozempic Babies Really a Thing?

Can you take a weight-loss medication while you’re pregnant?

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Medications like Ozempic are not Health Canada-approved for use in people who are pregnant. And unfortunately, there is very little known about the safety of these medications during pregnancy. As is common practice with testing new medicines, the drug makers, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly, excluded pregnant people from their clinical trials.

To be safe, doctors routinely recommend patients stop taking the medication at least two months before they try to conceive, per the prescribing information. “We don’t know how long these drugs stay in your system, so that’s to be safe,” says Dr. Ramji.

What if you get pregnant while taking Ozempic?

First, don’t panic. “There are very modest concerns as long as the woman is eating and drinking normally,” says Drucker. “Two reports of pregnancies in women on GLP-1 medicines have not identified harms for the baby,” he says.

That said, animal studies have shown a risk of birth defects, low birth weight and miscarriage. “We don’t know what kinds of birth defects they could cause in humans, if they do cause defects,” says Dr. Ramji.

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“We need more research,” she says. The Ozempic website currently states, “It is not known if Ozempic will harm your unborn baby or pass into your breast milk.” Wegovy’s website states that it “may harm your unborn baby.”

If you do discover that you are pregnant, discontinue the drug immediately and discuss it with your practitioner, who may recommend an early ultrasound to check on the growing baby. “Those patients may need to be followed more closely to check on the growth of the baby,” says Dr. Ramji. (If you are taking Ozempic for blood sugar management, your endocrinologist will recommend a different medication for the duration of your pregnancy.)

Novo Nordisk has started a registry to collect data about the safety of Wegovy during pregnancy, so in time we will likely know more about the effects of the “Ozempic baby boom” on pregnancies and growing babies.

If you are currently taking Ozempic, or another GLP-1 drug, and have questions about how it may impact your fertility, talk to your doctor.

This article was originally published on Jun 18, 2024

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Karen Robock is a writer, editor and mom of two whose work has appeared in dozens of publications in Canada and the U.S., including Prevention, Reader’s Digest, Canadian Living, and The Toronto Star. Once upon a time, Karen was even the managing editor of Today’s Parent. She lives in Toronto with her husband, school-age daughters, and their two dogs.

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