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Use of ranitidine in pregnancy is generally believed to be safe, although pregnant women should seek the advice of a physician before taking it. The drug is also known by its brand name, Zantac®, and is used to prevent heartburn, which is a common symptom in all stages of pregnancy. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies ranitidine as a category B medication, which means that animal testing has not shown any harmful effects on fetuses, but human testing has not been conducted. Ranitidine in pregnancy has also been safely used to prevent Mendelson’s syndrome, a condition in which a person’s stomach contents are aspirated into the lungs while under anesthesia. As with any medication, the benefits of taking ranitidine while pregnant should be weighed against any potential risks.
Ranitidine may be taken on a daily basis or intermittently as needed by people who suffer from chronic heartburn, gastric reflux, a stomach ulcer, or other illnesses that cause excessive stomach acid. Unlike antacid tablets, which are taken at the onset of a reflux attack, ranitidine is usually taken to prevent symptoms from occurring. In many cases, a woman who is trying to become pregnant may already be taking ranitidine, but will be advised by a physician to stop using all medications to minimize any risk to a potential pregnancy. A woman who is concerned about taking ranitidine or stopping its use may seek the advice of her physician, who may be able to suggest alternatives, such as home remedies, to treat acid reflux. In cases where a stomach condition is very severe or will cause additional complications, the doctor may suggest that it is safer to continue using ranitidine in pregnancy.
The FDA categorizes medications according to their potential risk to a developing fetus based on scientific testing, usually conducted on animals. Ranitidine is in pregnancy category B, meaning that it is generally safe for use during pregnancy according to animal studies, although it is known to cross the placenta and be absorbed by the fetus. Like most medications, however, human clinical trials have not been conducted to completely rule out the possibility of harm. Some scientific evidence of the safety of ranitidine in pregnancy is available from women who have used the drug with no more negative effects on their babies than women who did not use it. Ranitidine has also been given during cesarean section to prevent Mendelson’s syndrome without any resulting harm to the unborn baby.