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Vinpocetine is a synthetic chemical derived from the periwinkle plant. It's widely available in dietary supplements, either on its own or combined with other ingredients, according to the FDA. Manufacturers tout it as way to enhance memory, focus, energy, and weight loss.
But if you're pregnant or may become pregnant, vinpocetine may be dangerous. Research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that the supplement may cause miscarriage or other harm to a developing baby in the womb. Studies were performed on pregnant rats, but researchers concluded that the supplement could likely harm humans as well.
Also of note, the government study found that some supplements with vinpocetine contain more of the chemical than the amount stated on the label.
The FDA is urging expectant moms and women who may become pregnant to stop taking the supplements. And it's asking companies that sell supplements containing vinpocetine to make sure their labels carry a safety warning against using them before or during pregnancy.
Does your supplement contain vinpocetine?
Check the ingredients label for the word "vinpocetine" as well as for the following ingredients:
If the supplement you're taking contains vinpocetine, it'll be listed as either "vinpocetine" or one of the following ingredients:
- Vinca minor extract
- Lesser periwinkle extract
- Common periwinkle
Unfortunately, when products are sold as dietary supplements, the FDA doesn't regulate them for safety and effectiveness in the same way it would a prescription drug. In fact, most dietary supplements have not been well tested for safety on pregnant women, nursing moms, or children, according to the NIH. That's why it's always a good idea to consult with your OB before taking any supplement while pregnant or nursing, and for help choosing a good prenatal vitamin. Pregnancy is not the time to go on a weight-loss diet and pregnant women should steer clear of products promoting weight loss.
Given that about half of all Americans regularly take at least one dietary supplement, the FDA said it's now looking at ways to improve how these products are regulated. It recently launched a dietary supplement ingredient advisory list, where you can find out about ingredients that are being illegally marketed.
Check here for more information on how to tell if the vitamins and supplements you buy are safe and effective, and also check here for BabyCenter's pregnancy weight gain recommendations.
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