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Women who are pregnant may not be able to safely use nitroglycerin. Although animal studies have shown that this drug does not cause any significant problems, it is not known how nitroglycerin may affect pregnant women or their babies. Due to the unknown risks, the medication should only be prescribed during pregnancy if the benefits outweigh the risks.

Can Pregnant Women Use Nitroglycerin?

Nitroglycerin (Minitran™, Nitro-Bid®, Nitro-Dur®, Nitrolingual®, NitroMist®, Nitrostat®, Rectiv™) is a prescription medication most often used for the treatment or prevention of chest pain (angina). It is also used in ointment form to treat anal fissures. Based on the information currently available, it is unclear if the drug is safe for use during pregnancy.
 

What Is Pregnancy Category C?

Nitroglycerin is classified as a pregnancy Category C drug. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses a category system to classify the possible risks to a fetus when a specific medicine is taken during pregnancy. Pregnancy Category C is given to medicines that have not been adequately studied in pregnant humans but have caused fetal harm in animal studies.
 
In addition, medicines that have not been studied in any pregnant women or animals are automatically given a pregnancy Category C rating.
 
When given to pregnant rats, nitroglycerin did not cause any problems for the mothers or the babies, except slight developmental delays at high doses. However, it cannot be assumed that the same is true for humans, as animals do not always respond to medicines in the same way that humans do.
 
Therefore, a pregnancy Category C medicine, including nitroglycerin, should only be given to a pregnant woman if her healthcare provider believes that the benefits to her outweigh any possible risks to her unborn child.
 
Various forms of nitroglycerin have been used to control high blood pressure during pregnancy. This drug has also been used to help stop preterm labor by relaxing the uterus. However, it is unknown if these uses are safe or effective.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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