Statins are prescribed in cases where diet and exercise are not enough to lower your cholesterol levels. Because of their ability to impact all aspects of your lipid profile, statins are one of the most commonly prescribed lipid-lowering medications.
Although you might think of high cholesterol and triglyceride levels as something to worry about as you get older, you can have high cholesterol levels at a younger age, too—even in your 20s, 30s, and 40s, which is commonly around the time many women begin having children.
Having high cholesterol might mean that you’ll be placed on cholesterol-lowering medication like a statin.
There are currently seven statins on the U.S. market:
- Crestor (rosuvastatin)
- Lescol, Lescol XL (fluvastatin)
- Lipitor (atorvastatin)
- Livalo (pitavastatin)
- Mevacor, Altoprev (lovastatin)
- Pravachol (pravastatin)
- Zocor (simvastatin)
Though there have not been a lot of studies examining the effects of statins on pregnant women, animal and human studies that do exist suggest a possible risk of fetal birth defects when taking statins while pregnant.
Therefore, medications in this category should not be taken if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant unless the benefits of taking the medication outweigh the potential harms of the drug.
While not all animals involved in these studies experienced birth defects, the research is not conclusive.
Human studies have also not been conclusive. Although birth defects, such as heart defects, cleft palate, neural tube defects, and other structural abnormalities occurred, they were still considered rare.
Additionally, most of the mothers in these studies had other pre-existing conditions (such as diabetes or obesity) or were taking more than one prescription or over-the-counter drug, which could also have played a role in the defects noted in these studies.
While the evidence that statins can cause birth defects in humans is not conclusive, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that statins not be taken by women who are pregnant.
So, if you are taking a statin and are planning to become pregnant, you should let your healthcare provider know of your plans. They will want to discuss alternative ways of managing your lipid levels during your pregnancy.