Prescription painkillers – such as Oxycontin (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone) – are opioid drugs used to treat pain. They are prescribed after surgeries, for injuries or painful illness, and can also be found in prescription cough syrups or other medications. These drugs, while legal and safe when used as directed by a doctor, also have the potential for dangerous side effects – including abuse and addiction.
Prescription opioid use is not uncommon. In 2017, there were almost 58 opioid prescriptions written for every 100 Americans. Many of these were women. The Center of Disease Control (CDC) recently found that, on average, more than 25 percent of privately-insured women, ages 15 to 44, are prescribed an opioid medication. Even more women of reproductive age on Medicaid fill prescriptions for opioids. Some of these women are pregnant at the time. Statistics show that nearly 15 percent of expectant mothers are prescribed opioids while pregnant.
Many women and their loved ones wonder, is it safe to take oxycodone or hydrocodone while pregnant? Perhaps you are asking the same. You may be a few months into your pregnancy, but due to an injury, are wondering what types of painkillers you can take. Maybe you have been taking a prescription opioid for some time, and just found out you are pregnant – should you stop? Let’s start with the first.
Is it Safe to Take Oxycodone or Hydrocodone While Pregnant?
When a woman is pregnant, everything she consumes and puts into her body can affect the growing fetus. For example, it is not recommended a woman drinks while she is pregnant. The same can be said for many medications – developing fetuses are very sensitive to substances and women should remain as drug-free as possible as a result. When opioids and other drugs are consumed during pregnancy, they are passed from a mother’s bloodstream, through her placenta, to her unborn baby.
Some studies show that oxycodone or hydrocodone use during pregnancy can lead to an increased risk for adverse outcomes such as low birth weight, stillbirth, premature delivery, and c-section. This is more commonly reported in those who had issues with opioid abuse, or, using the drugs in larger amounts than prescribed, and using them for longer than recommended by their doctor. If you require pain medication while pregnant, it’s important to speak with a doctor about the potential risks.
While there is not substantial research around the possible birth defects or pregnancy complications associated with opioid use while pregnant, there still remains serious risk. Most notably, there is a very high risk of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS is a drug withdrawal syndrome that occurs in babies who have been exposed to opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone while in the womb.
Similar to the withdrawal symptoms experienced in drug users, neonatal abstinence syndrome causes an array of physical effects in babies. NAS babies have trouble feeding and sleeping. Some experience seizures, nausea, trembling, fevers, and pain. Depending on the severity of symptoms, NAS babies can be kept hospitalized for up to twenty days. Their symptoms can last for 4 to 6 months after birth. Usually, their condition is reported to the DCF.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse recently published an infographic about neonatal abstinence syndrome – reporting that an estimated 32,000 babies were born with NAS in the United States in 2014 (a five-fold increase from the year 2004). Every 15 minutes, a baby is born with opioid withdrawal.
If You Just Found Out You are Pregnant and Are Addicted to Opioids
Women are more likely than men to experience chronic pain and for this reason, are more likely to be prescribed prescription opioids. They are also more likely to be given higher doses, and to use them for longer periods of time than men. Because of the addictive nature of these drugs, women are also quicker to develop an opioid addiction. If you are battling an opioid addiction, you are not alone.
If you are struggling with opioid addiction, the best thing you can do for your baby at this time is to consult with your doctor about next steps. You should not stop taking opioids suddenly, or go “cold turkey” with the drugs. This may cause severe withdrawal symptoms. Instead, talk with your healthcare provider about the pros and cons of stopping the drug use. Any use should be stopped gradually, under the direction of a healthcare provider. If you are struggling with stopping use, you may consider an opioid addiction treatment program tailored to young women.
Turnbridge is recognized substance abuse treatment center for young women. Whether you are struggling with opioid addiction during pregnancy, or are battling opioid abuse and would like to try and get pregnant, please do not hesitate to contact us. Call 877-581-1793 to learn more.