Fioricet is a medication used to treat tension headaches. Read about the effects of Fioricet and why pregnant women should be cautious about using the drug.

Pregnancies are both life-changing and stressful. The optimism of having a child on the way is often tempered by the physical and mental stresses of the pregnancy. While pregnant, women can experience nausea, increased urination, fatigue, cramps, and several other distressing symptoms.

Headaches are particularly common during pregnancy. As a result, many women turn to medications like Fioricet to relieve tension headaches. However, some expecting parents are unsure whether or not Fioricet is safe to take while pregnant. Although research about the risks of taking the medication during pregnancy is limited, Fioricet could potentially harm a mother and her fetus.

What is Fioricet?

Fioricet is a prescription drug comprised of acetaminophen, butalbital and caffeine. Acetaminophen alleviates pain and reduces fevers, butalbital causes sedation and caffeine stimulates the central nervous system.

Available in capsule or tablet form, Fioricet is used to alleviate tension heachaches caused by muscle contractions. Like most medications, the drug can cause a host of side effects. Misusing Fioricet can increase the risk of developing distressing health effects.

Side effects of Fioricet include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Lightheadedness
  • Vomiting
  • Depression

Fioricet can also cause more serious immediate side effects that include breathing problems or seizures. If someone you know has overdosed on the medication, call the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222.

Because of the presence of butalbital, Fioricet can be habit-forming. Butalbital is a barbiturate that can result in physical or psychological dependence. People addicted to Fioricet who suddenly stop using the drug can experience withdrawal symptoms.

Is It Safe to Take Fioricet While Pregnant?

If you’re pregnant, it may be difficult to keep track of the different drugs you should avoid. Trying to understand the complexities of these substances and what they can do to your body or unborn child can induce stress.

Luckily, the Food and Drug Administration made this process easier by categorizing drugs based on their risk to pregnancies. These categories are labeled A, B, C, D, and X. Category A includes drugs that are safe to take during pregnancy, while Category X contains substances that should never be taken while pregnant.

Category A

Research indicates that these drugs show no evidence of risk to the fetus throughout a pregnancy. Many multivitamins taken during pregnancy fit into this category.

Category B

If a clinical need must be met, substances in this category are considered safe to take during pregnancy. These drugs include acetaminophen, found in Tylenol, and amoxicillin.

Category C

These substances can be risky to take during pregnancy. If these drugs are given to pregnant women, the potential benefits should outweigh the potential risks. Category C drugs include aspirin, saccharine and gentamicin.

Category D

Studies show that these substances could harm the fetus. Despite these health risks, some pregnant women still take these drugs, which include tetracyclines and ACE inhibitors, for the potential benefits.

Category X

Because these drugs demonstrate clear risks to the fetus, they are contraindicated in women who are or could become pregnant. Category X substances include Lipitor and oral contraceptives.

Fioricet is a Category C substance. As a Category C drug, Fioricet has caused adverse effects in animal studies but not human studies, or no controlled animal or human studies involving the substance exist.

However, states that an infant could be born dependent on Fioricet because of the presence of butalbital. Babies born dependent on drugs experience painful withdrawal symptoms and often remain in the hospital for several weeks.

When taken during pregnancy, barbiturates like butalbital can also increase the risk for birth defects or bleeding problems in newborns. One study even suggested that barbiturate use during pregnancy can increase the chance of brain tumors in infants.

Some versions of Fioricet contain codeine, an addictive opioid. Fioricet with codeine can result in the mother becoming addicted to the medication and the baby being born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Women should be cautious of taking Fioricet during pregnancy. While studies have not indicated harm in humans, more research may be needed on the benefits and risks of taking the medication while pregnant.

Alternative to Taking Fioricet While Pregnant

Using anti-headache medications like Fioricet isn’t the only way to alleviate tension headaches. For pregnant women, it might be best to try relaxation techniques. These techniques do not require money or a doctor’s visit.

Some healthy ways to relieve a headache include:

Close your eyes and rest

Sitting in a dark, quiet room with your eyes closed can ease stress and alleviate your headache. This method of relaxation has long been an effective way to reduce tension headaches.

Warm your neck

Try putting a warm cloth or heating pad around your neck and the base of your skull to alleviate muscle-contraction headaches. If this technique doesn’t work, you could try applying an ice pack to that area to relieve tension.

Massage your neck and temples

To improve blood flow, gently rub your temples and neck for a few minutes. This is a quick and simple way to reduce a headache.

Engage in relaxation activities

Breathing exercises like meditation can also reduce headaches. Breathing deeply and visualizing peaceful images can be helpful in reducing pain caused by stress, which may include headaches.

Monitor your food and beverage choices

Food can also affect headaches. If you eat unhealthy foods or drink heavily caffeinated beverages, headaches could develop. Regularly eating healthy, nutrient-heavy meals can improve your blood-sugar and reduce the risk of  headaches developing.

If relaxation techniques cannot control your headache, a medication may be needed. Before taking a drug like Fioricet, consult with your doctor. While Fioricet can effectively reduce headaches during pregnancy, taking more of the substance than recommended by a physician can lead to drug addiction.

If you are addicted to Fioricet and have plans to become pregnant, do not be discouraged. Help is available. Seeking treatment for a substance use disorder can reduce the risk for a lifetime of health, relationship and financial problems.

Individuals grappling with addiction should call a representative of The Recovery Village. With rehab centers located across the United States, The Recovery Village crafts treatment plans to meet a patient’s specific needs, which might involve co-occurring disorders like depression. Make the call and start your recovery today.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.