Disufiram

(Date: September 2020. Version: 3)

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?

Disulfiram is a medicine that, when taken with alcohol, causes extremely unpleasant effects. It is therefore prescribed to people who are trying to stop drinking alcohol.

Please see the bump leaflet on alcohol for information about how heavy drinking in pregnancy can affect the baby.

What are the benefits of taking disulfiram?

Disulfiram can help people who drink heavily to stop. This can improve, or help to prevent, the serious health problems that have been linked to heavy drinking.  However, disulfiram is generally avoided in pregnancy.

Are there any risks of taking disulfiram during pregnancy?

Very few pregnant women taking dilsulfiram have been studied and while no obvious problems have been noted, it is not possible to rule-out effects on the baby. The severe symptoms caused by mixing dilsulfiram and alcohol could be potentially harmful to both mother and baby. For both of these reasons, disulfiram tends not to intentionally be used during pregnancy.

If you are taking disulfiram and find out that you are pregnant, use of this medicine should be reviewed at the earliest opportunity by your GP or specialist.

Are there any alternatives to taking disulfiram?

Yes, there are a number of other ways that people who struggle with alcohol use can be helped. If you need support to stop drinking in pregnancy, please speak to your midwife, GP, or specialist.

What if I prefer not to take medicines during pregnancy?

Disulfiram should generally not be used in pregnancy, but many other medicines can be used safely. Your doctor will only prescribe medicines when absolutely necessary and will be happy to talk to you about any concerns that you might have.

Will my baby need extra monitoring?

All pregnant women in the UK should be offered a detailed anomaly scan at around 20 weeks of pregnancy as part of their routine antenatal care. No extra monitoring for major birth defects is required following disulfiram use in pregnancy.

Are there any risks to my baby if the father has taken disulfiram?

We would not expect any increased risk to your baby if the father takes disulfiram.

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

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General information 

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.

   

www.medicinesinpregnancy.org

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to replace the individual care and advice of your health care provider. New information is continually becoming available. Whilst every effort will be made to ensure that this information is accurate and up to date at the time of publication, we cannot cover every eventuality and the information providers cannot be held responsible for any adverse outcomes following decisions made on the basis of this information. We strongly advise that printouts should NOT be kept for any length of time, or for “future reference” as they can rapidly become out of date.

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