The FDA offers dietary supplement tips for women, noting that pregnant women should seek counsel with their healthcare provider before taking medicine, vitamins, or supplements. People who regularly use kratom for its reported benefits should speak with their healthcare provider before continuing to use kratom use during pregnancy. Further studies are needed to understand the safety of kratom use, especially during pregnancy. 

Kratom Effects on the Body That Could Impact a Pregnancy

Maintaining health during pregnancy is vitally important. As such, numerous studies have been published concerning what (and what not) to consume during pregnancy, including studies on the risks of taking certain medication while pregnant and the potential dangers of supplement use during pregnancy

This can be a tricky balance for an expecting parent, especially if they are no longer able to utilize typical medications and supplements they were previously taking. Some in this position have turned their attention to kratom, a natural botanical that people use for its various effects on the body and for emotional support. Some of the benefits noted by users include:

While the reported benefits of kratom may seem appealing for support during pregnancy, further research is needed to discover the ways that kratom interacts within the body. Some common side-effects of taking kratom may cause health concerns for people who are pregnant. The side effects of taking kratom may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Upper extremity tremors 

These side effects range from mild to severe, may be strain– and dose-dependent, and could appear together or separately.

Kratom Mechanisms

Studies on the pharmacology of kratom show that there are more than 20 active compounds in kratom, but further research is needed to fully understand how the chemical structures of these compounds interact with the body. 

Compounds that have been noted for their effects on the body include 7-hydroxymitragynine and mitragynine, which produce feelings of boosted energy when taken in small doses and provide relief from physical discomfort when taken in larger doses. Studies on the pharmacology of kratom have found that these compounds interact with certain receptors in the brain that may be involved in the perception of pain, though the full nature of this interaction is not yet fully understood. 

Some clinical research and studies note that kratom has the potential to cause acute liver injury, especially when used in combination with other substances that can stress the liver (for instance, alcohol or tobacco products). Liver disease during pregnancy does rarely occur in only 3% of pregnancies — so the potential combined stress on the liver from kratom use and pregnancy requires further study to determine risk.

Kratom Withdrawal in Babies

Interactions of kratom compounds with affected brain receptors have produced symptoms of withdrawal in a minority of users. Case studies of neonatal abstinence syndrome due to maternal kratom use do exist. These examples of neonatal kratom dependence and withdrawal showed the infants exhibiting concerning withdrawal symptoms such as facial excoriations, resting tremors, irritability, high-pitched cry, and hypertonia that required detox measures to be taken before being discharged home.

Kratom Contamination

Kratom is not approved for therapeutic use by the FDA but is legal to purchase in the United States. For those who choose to use this botanical, it is important to purchase kratom from reputable sources that are qualified through the American Kratom Association. Impure, adulterated, or otherwise unreliable sources and retailers may provide kratom that is contaminated with additives, or which simply is not sanitary, and which may pose an elevated risk to pregnant women.

The FDA has investigated multistate outbreaks of salmonella infections linked to products reported to contain kratom. FDA testing of kratom has also revealed significant levels of toxic heavy metals including lead and nickel in concentrations that exceed safe oral consumption levels. Side effects of long-term consumption of heavy metals may result in heavy metal poisoning which could lead to kidney damage, anemia, high blood pressure, and increased risk of certain cancers — all of which could have detrimental effects during pregnancy.

Does Kratom Cause Birth Defects?

Because of a lack of research on kratom, its effects on the body, and its effect on a fetus, there is no definitive evidence as to whether kratom does or does not cause birth defects. However, kratom does interact with certain receptors in the brain that appear to be involved in pain perception, and the CDC notes that pain medication exposure during pregnancy has been linked to poor fetal growth, preterm birth, stillbirth, birth defects, and neonatal abstinence syndrome.

The benefits of kratom use may seem appealing to people who are pregnant and are looking for natural botanicals to support mental and emotional health and ease physical discomfort during pregnancy. However, because kratom is not regulated by the FDA and research is still needed to determine if kratom use during pregnancy is safe, people who are pregnant or intending to become pregnant should consult with their healthcare provider to determine if kratom is safe for use during pregnancy.

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