This sheet talks about exposure to hydroxychloroquine in a pregnancy and while breastfeeding. This information should not take the place of medical care and advice from your healthcare provider.
What is hydroxychloroquine?
Hydroxychloroquine is a medication used to prevent and treat malaria and to treat autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. It has also been used to treat COVID-19, Q fever, Sjögren’s syndrome, and some skin disorders. Hydroxychloroquine is sold under several brand names, including Plaquenil®.
For more information on rheumatoid arthritis or lupus in pregnancy please see the MotherToBaby fact sheet on those topics at: https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/rheumatoid-arthritis/pdf or https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/lupus-pregnancy/pdf/. For information on malaria, please see the MotherToBaby fact sheet at: https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/malaria/pdf/. For information on COVID-19, please see the MotherToBaby fact sheet at: https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/covid-19/pdf/.
I take hydroxychloroquine. Can it make it harder for me to become pregnant?
Hydroxychloroquine has not been studied to see if it could make it harder to get pregnant while taking this medication
I just found out I am pregnant. Should I stop taking hydroxychloroquine?
Individuals break down medication at different rates. On average it would take over 8 months for all the hydroxychloroquine to be gone from a person’s body. Some women may choose to stop taking this medication before becoming pregnant; however, it is important to talk with your healthcare providers before changing how you take this medication. It is important to think about the benefits of taking hydroxychloroquine and treating your condition during pregnancy versus the possible risks of stopping the medication and having more symptoms and uncontrolled disease during pregnancy.
Can taking hydroxychloroquine make it more likely for me to have a miscarriage?
Miscarriage can occur in any pregnancy. Several studies have not found a higher chance of miscarriage related directly to hydroxychloroquine. In one study, a higher chance was reported; however, the mother’s disease may have contributed to the higher risk according to the authors. Malaria and autoimmune conditions like lupus can increase the chance of miscarriage.
Can taking hydroxychloroquine during my pregnancy cause birth defects?
In every pregnancy, a woman starts out with a 3-5% chance of having a baby with a birth defect. This is called her background risk. Studies have looked at over 400 pregnancies and have not found an increased chance for birth defects with hydroxychloroquine use for the treatment of rheumatic diseases.
Can taking hydroxychloroquine cause other problems for the baby?
Studies do not suggest that hydroxychloroquine directly increases the chance for premature delivery (delivery before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Malaria and Lupus may increase the chance for premature delivery.
An uncommon side effect of this medicine is damage to the inner lining of the eye (called retinopathy). This has raised concern for vision problems in children whose mothers have taken hydroxychloroquine during pregnancy. However, most studies on young children whose mothers took hydroxychloroquine have not found an increase in eye problems.
Could taking hydroxychloroquine help prevent pregnancy complications?
Hydroxychloroquine may benefit pregnancies by reducing active disease of lupus. Hydroxychloroquine may also reduce the chance for a baby to be born with a specific heart conduction problem, called congenital heart block. More studies are needed to understand if hydroxychloroquine helps prevent pregnancy complications.
Can I breastfeed while taking hydroxychloroquine?
Small amounts of hydroxychloroquine have been found to enter breast milk. Small studies have reported no harmful effects in infants whose mothers’ breastfed while taking hydroxychloroquine. This includes no evidence of vision, hearing, or growth problems in young children who were followed up to about one year of age. Talk to your healthcare provider about all of your breastfeeding questions.
If a man takes hydroxychloroquine, could it affect his fertility (ability to get partner pregnant) or increase the chance of birth defects?
There are no studies looking at possible risks to a pregnancy when the father takes hydroxychloroquine. In general, exposures that fathers have are unlikely to increase risks to a pregnancy. For more information, please see the MotherToBaby fact sheet Paternal Exposures and Pregnancy at https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/paternal-exposures-pregnancy/pdf/.
MotherToBaby is currently conducting a study looking at autoimmune diseases and the medications used to treat autoimmune diseases in pregnancy. If you are interested in taking part in this study, please call 1-877-311-8972 or visit https://mothertobaby.org/join-study/.
Please click here for references.