Pregnancy and Red Yeast Rice

Some red yeast rice supplements may contain lovastatin, a cholesterol medication that can cause problems to a fetus. Therefore, it may not be safe to use red yeast rice products during pregnancy. The FDA has classified lovastatin as a pregnancy Category X medication because it can cause birth defects. If you are taking red yeast rice and pregnancy occurs, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider.

Pregnancy and Red Yeast Rice: An Overview

Pregnant women should not take red yeast rice supplements, as they may contain a compound that can be dangerous when taken during pregnancy.

Red Yeast Rice, Pregnancy, and Lovastatin

Some red yeast rice supplements contain lovastatin (Mevacor®), a prescription "statin" cholesterol medication. Lovastatin is not physically added to these supplements; instead, it is produced naturally when the red yeast rice is fermented. Not all of these products contain lovastatin. In fact, most red yeast rice that is used in food contains little or no lovastatin. Red yeast rice is produced from the fermentation of rice using a certain type of yeast. If the fermentation conditions are carefully controlled and specific strains of yeast are used, the result can be made to contain high levels of lovastatin.
Lovastatin is a pregnancy Category X medication, a classification that is given to medicines that cause problems to the fetus in pregnant animal studies or in humans who have mistakenly taken the medicine while pregnant. Women are not recommended to use a pregnancy Category X medicine during pregnancy. Lovastatin was given a pregnancy Category X rating because it can cause birth defects (especially skeletal defects) or other problems when used during pregnancy.
It is not known if red yeast rice products that do not contain lovastatin are safe for pregnant women. Also, it is difficult (if not impossible) to tell whether any particular red yeast rice supplement contains lovastatin or not, as most companies are not willing to put this information on the label because this would attract attention from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
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