Posts Tagged ‘pain killers’

Prescription opioids and breastfeeding

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018

Prescription opioids are medicines used to relieve pain your health care provider may prescribe if you’ve been injured or had surgery or dental work. Prescription opioids include codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone, and tramadol, among others. Prescription opioids are sometimes used to treat a cough or diarrhea.

Are there risks associated with taking prescription opioids?

Opioids have gotten a lot of attention in the United States because they are easy to get addicted to. Along with helping relieve pain, they also release chemicals in the brain that can make you feel calm and intensely happy (also called euphoria). Drug addiction is a brain condition that leads to using drugs, even if they’re harmful, because they affect self-control and your ability to stop using a drug. If you take prescription opioids during pregnancy, they can cause problems for your baby, such as premature birth and neonatal abstinence syndrome (also called NAS). NAS is when a baby is exposed to a drug in the womb before birth and goes through withdrawal from the drug after birth. Even if you use an opioid exactly like your health care provider tells you to, it still may cause NAS in your baby.

What can you do if you take a prescription opioid while breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is beneficial for you and your baby. It helps you bond with your baby and your breast milk helps build your baby’s immunity to protect her from infections. If your baby has NAS, breastfeeding may help make her withdrawal less severe so she needs less medicine and can leave the hospital sooner.

If you’re taking prescription opioids for pain relief with your provider’s supervision, you can breastfeed your baby depending on the medicine you take. Some can cause serious problems for your baby. Here are some things you can do:

  • Make sure your provider who prescribes the opioid knows you’re breastfeeding.
  • Take the medicine exactly as your provider tells you to.
  • Talk to your provider about switching to a safer pain reliever if you take codeine, hydrocodone, meperidine, oxycodone, or tramadol. Pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil®) or acetaminophen (Tylenol®) are safe to use when breastfeeding.
  • Talk to your provider about ways to avoid addiction to opioids.

For more information

If you have questions about exposures and medication use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, call MotherToBaby toll-free at 866-626-6847 or send a text to 855-999-3525. You may also visit their website at

Pain killers and birth defects

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

pill-bottlesBabies born to women who take opioid pain killers such as codeine, oxycodone or hydrocodone just before or in early pregnancy are at increased but modest risk of birth defects, according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study, recently published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found 2-3 percent of mothers interviewed were treated with prescription opioid pain killers, or analgesics, just before or during early pregnancy. (The study did not examine illicit use of these medications.)

The most commonly used opioid meds reported by women were codeine and hydrocodone. Treatment with these pain killers was linked to several types of congenital heart defects as well as spina bifida, hydrocephaly, congenital glaucoma and gastroschisis, an abdominal wall defect. (The findings with some congenital heart defects also appeared in previous studies.) This study found that women who took prescription opioid medications just before or during early pregnancy had about two times the risk for having a baby with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (one of the most critical heart defects) as women who were not treated with them.

Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting nearly 40,000 births in the United States each year. Many infants with congenital heart defects die in the first year of life, and infants who survive often require many surgeries, lengthy hospitalizations and a lifetime of treatment for related disabilities.

The studies lead author, Dr. Charyl S. Boussard, said , “It’s important to acknowledge that although there is an increased risk for some types of major birth defects from an exposure to opioid analgesics, that absolute risk for any individual woman is relatively modest. However, with very serious and life threatening birth defects like hypoplastic left heart syndrome, the prevention of even a small number of cases is very important.”

For more information on this study, click here.  Always talk with your health care provider if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy and you have taken or are considering taking any medication, whether prescription, over-the-counter or herbal.