Glucosamine doesn't seem to pose risks during pregnancy

July 1, 2007

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Findings from a small study conducted in Canada suggest that the endogenous aminomonosaccharide glucosamine taken during pregnancy causes no increased risk for major malformations or other adverse fetal effects.

Most of the women included in the study (50 of 54, or 93%) were exposed to glucosamine during their first trimester of pregnancy; those remaining were exposed throughout their pregnancies. Almost half the participants had been using glucosamine for at least 1 year prior to becoming pregnant; 63% stopped taking it as soon as they found out they were pregnant. Only 18% were taking it for osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis; the rest were taking it for other indications. About one third were advised by a physician to take it; the remainder were advised by family, friends, or the media.

Only one malformation was observed in the exposed group-a scrotal hernia. No statistically significant differences existed between the two groups in any of the outcomes measured.

Commentary by Joshua A. Copel, MD, Professor, Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, and Pediatrics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.

This case–control series of women exposed to glucosamine, a commonly used over-the-counter remedy for joint pain, compared women who contacted a teratogen information service to other women contacting the service. The authors failed to find any increased risk of major malformations, however, the small size of the study (54 women, including two with twins) makes it difficult to draw conclusions regarding safety.