Epinephrine is a life-saving medication prescribed to people with anaphylactic allergic reactions. While anaphylaxis is commonly associated with food allergies, pregnant women can also be allergic to insects, mold, pollen and other environmental allergens. When anaphylaxis starts, pregnant women have minutes to inject epinephrine into the body to stop the worst reactions, including difficulty breathing, swelling and hives. Epi-Pen is a brand of epinephrine injector prescribed in the United States. This injection could be the only thing that stands between a pregnant woman with anaphylactic allergies and death.
What are the Dangers of Using an Epi-Pen During Pregnancy?
When I watched the Epi-Pen video with my anaphylactic son, I immediately thought about the potential risks to the elderly, patients with heart conditions and pregnant women. There are no controlled studies of Epi-Pen or epinephrine use in pregnant women. The drug is classified in the pregnancy category C, which simply means no adequate studies exist. Pregnant women should use an Epi-Pen or epinephrine injectable if the benefits outweigh the potential risks to the fetus. But, there are no studies on the effects of epinephrine on the fetus, so how does a pregnant woman make the right decision? Ultimately, epinephrine can save a pregnant woman’s life if she suffers an anaphylactic reaction and that is a strong enough benefit despite the possible negative effects on the fetus.
Exercise Research Shows Possible Effect of Epinephrine on the Fetus
In lieu of an official study on the effects of epinephrine on the fetus, I found expert opinions on the effect of high heart rate on the fetus. Epinephrine causes an extreme rise in heart rate. Being pregnant could also cause heart rate to increase 10 to 20 beats a minute. Put the two together and heart rate could reach a dangerous level. When heart rate is too high the heart does not oxygenate the blood properly or pump enough blood to the fetus.
How to Use an Epi-Pen While Pregnant
When epinephrine is injected, the pregnant woman may experience increased heart rate, dizziness, nausea and shakiness. It is best to inject the Epi-Pen while sitting on the ground so you don’t fall on your stomach if you faint. Call 9-1-1 as soon as the 10 second injection is finished. You will need to go to the hospital as soon as possible. If your symptoms do not pass within 5 to 15 minutes, a second dose of epinephrine may be needed. About 20% of anaphylactic people require two or more doses of epinephrine.
Your Epi-Pen is necessary if you suffer from anaphylactic allergies. There is no scientific evidence that proves Epi-Pens are safe or unsafe, but anaphylaxis can kill you within seconds. If you find yourself in a life-threatening situation, epinephrine could save your life and the life of your fetus. Talk with your obstetrician about the potential risks associated with using epinephrine during pregnancy.
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