(Date of issue: December 2013. Version: 1.1)
This factsheet has been written for members of the public by the UK Teratology Information Service (UKTIS). UKTIS is a not-for-profit organisation funded by Public Health England on behalf of UK Health Departments. UKTIS has been providing scientific information to health care providers since 1983 on the effects that medicines, recreational drugs and chemicals may have on the developing baby during pregnancy.
What is it?
Hyoscine is a medicine that comes in two forms:
Hyoscine butylbromide (butylscopolamine, buscopan) is used to treat the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and to ease muscle spasms in the bladder and urinary tract. Hyoscine butylbromide is also occasionally used in some countries (but not the UK) during childbirth as it is thought to shorten the first stage of labour.
Hyoscine hydrobromide (scopolamine hydrobromide, ‘Joy Rides,®’ ‘Kwells,®’ Scopoderm TTS patches®) is used to prevent travel/motion sickness and to reduce bodily secretions such as saliva and sweat in specific situations (for example before certain operations).
Is it safe to take hyoscine in pregnancy?
There is no yes or no answer to this question. There is no scientific proof that hyoscine is harmful to an unborn baby. However, because hyoscine use during human pregnancy has not been fully studied it is not possible to say that hyoscine is absolutely 'safe’ to use in pregnancy. When deciding whether or not to take hyoscine during pregnancy it is important to weigh up the benefits of its use against the known or possible risks, some of which will depend on how many weeks pregnant you are.
This leaflet summarises the scientific studies relating to the effects of hyoscine on a baby in the womb. It is advisable to consider this information before taking hyoscine if you are pregnant. For some women treatment with hyoscine in pregnancy may be necessary.
Your doctor is the best person to help you decide what is right for you and your baby.
What if I have already taken hyoscine during pregnancy?
If you have taken any medicines it is always a good idea to let your doctor know that you are pregnant so that you can decide together whether you still need the medicines that you are on and to make sure that you are taking the lowest dose that works.
Can using hyoscine in pregnancy cause my baby to be born with birth defects?
A baby’s body and most internal organs are formed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. It is mainly during this time that some medicines are known to cause birth defects.
Scientific evidence from a small number of studies does not show that taking hyoscine during early pregnancy increases the chance of having a baby with a birth defect.
Can using hyoscine in pregnancy cause any other problems?
Taking hyoscine in pregnancy is not known to cause miscarriage or stillbirth, or a baby to be born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, or to be smaller than expected.
There is also no known link between taking hyoscine in pregnancy and learning or behavioural problems (such as ADHD or autism spectrum disorder) in the child later on in life. There are, however, no scientific studies that have specifically investigated a link with any of these problems.
Can using hyoscine during delivery affect my baby’s health after birth?
Some studies suggest that hyoscine given to mothers around the time of delivery may affect the baby’s heart rate in the womb. However, a number of studies which have examined the safety of using hyoscine butylbromide during delivery have shown no evidence that this causes any problems in the baby’s health immediately at birth as measured by what are known as APGAR scores. Hyoscine is not routinely used during labour in the UK.
Will my baby need extra monitoring during pregnancy?
There is no evidence that taking hyoscine during pregnancy causes any problems that would require extra monitoring for your baby during pregnancy.
Are there any risks to my baby if the father has taken hyoscine?
We would not expect any increased risk to your baby if the father took hyoscine before or around the time you became pregnant.
Who can I talk to if I have questions?
If you have any questions regarding the information in this leaflet please discuss them with your health care provider. They can access more detailed medical and scientific information from www.uktis.org.
Up to 1 out of every 5 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, and 1 in 40 babies are born with a birth defect. These are referred to as the background population risks. They describe the chance of these events happening for any pregnancy before taking factors such as the mother’s health during pregnancy, her lifestyle, medicines she takes and the genetic make up of her and the baby’s father into account.
Medicines use in pregnancy
Most medicines used by the mother will cross the placenta and reach the baby. Sometimes this may have beneficial effects for the baby. There are, however, some medicines that can harm a baby’s normal development. How a medicine affects a baby may depend on the stage of pregnancy when the medicine is taken. If you are on regular medication you should discuss these effects with your doctor/health care team before becoming pregnant.
If a new medicine is suggested for you during pregnancy, please ensure the doctor or health care professional treating you is aware of your pregnancy.
When deciding whether or not to use a medicine in pregnancy you need to weigh up how the medicine might improve your and/or your unborn baby’s health against any possible problems that the drug may cause. Our bumps leaflets are written to provide you with a summary of what is known about use of a specific medicine in pregnancy so that you can decide together with your health care provider what is best for you and your baby.
Every pregnancy is unique. The decision to start, stop, continue or change a prescribed medicine before or during pregnancy should be made in consultation with your health care provider. It is very helpful if you can record all your medication taken in pregnancy in your hand held maternity records.