After nine months of pregnancy, during which time you’re watching every substance, food and drink you put into your body, you then have to continue that level of caution while breastfeeding. Many substances will pass through breastmilk, therefore exposing the baby to them. However, exposure is typically less significant as compared to a baby exposed to substances in the womb.

During pregnancy, the use of hydrocodone may not be advisable. During pregnancy, hydrocodone is a category C drug, meaning risks to the fetus can’t be ruled out. When a baby is exposed to opioids in utero, it can lead to a higher risk of certain birth defects including neural tube defects. The baby can also be born dependent on opioids. If a baby is born dependent on an opioid like hydrocodone, they may go through withdrawal symptoms after delivery. Are there similar risks to taking hydrocodone while breastfeeding?

Hydrocodone is a prescription opioid, given to patients to help manage pain. Hydrocodone is sold under brand names like Vicodin and Norco. It’s actually a semisynthetic opioid, derived from codeine. Hydrocodone can be prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. There are immediate-release versions of hydrocodone, as well as controlled-release options like Hysingla ER. Side effects of hydrocodone are similar to other opioids and can include nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness. Hydrocodone does have the potential to become addictive, and people taking the drugs may become physically dependent on it.

So, is it safe to take hydrocodone while breastfeeding? According to research, hydrocodone may be safe to take while breastfeeding, but only in small doses. Only a limited portion of the drug will usually end up in breastmilk. Research shows if a nursing mother were to take up to 30 g of Vicodin per day, it might be okay in terms of breastfeeding. That would be around six tablets, each of 5 mg. This should only be a treatment option if other painkillers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen are ineffective. Hydrocodone could be prescribed to a woman to treat pain resulting from labor and delivery, but again, only if other painkillers weren’t effective.

Hydrocodone While Breastfeeding: What You Need to Know

The most important thing to note about the research regarding hydrocodone and breastfeeding is the fact that it’s only certain doses that may be considered safe. The effects of hydrocodone on a nursing infant are very dependent on the amount of the drug that’s taken. Since only a fractional amount of hydrocodone actually passes through the breast milk and to the baby, if dosage instructions are followed there shouldn’t be serious side effects. However, if a mother ingests more than prescribed and doesn’t follow a doctor’s instructions, there can be side effects including drowsiness of the infant or even respiratory depression. Hydrocodone shouldn’t be taken for longer than two or three days either. If a nursing mother is administering hydrocodone and notices her baby isn’t sucking properly or seems unusually drowsy, she should contact a healthcare provider right away.

Hydrocodone can have poor clearance times in newborns if large doses are taken. If a woman is misusing hydrocodone or is addicted or dependent on it, it may pose a risk for a breastfeeding baby. Typically, if someone is addicted to hydrocodone or opioid pain medicines, they’re going to be taking very high doses in order to achieve a euphoric effect. This can pose a significant risk. In these cases, a doctor may recommend against a woman breastfeeding.

In a situation where a woman could potentially be prescribed hydrocodone while breastfeeding, her healthcare provider may explore other options before going to the opioid drug. For example, as was touched on briefly, a doctor may try acetaminophen or aspirin first. If a woman does require hydrocodone, her doctor will probably only prescribe it for three days and will prescribe the lowest likely effective dose. This is a different situation from a woman being addicted to hydrocodone. In this case, her health care provider may advise that she not breastfeed. A woman who’s addicted to hydrocodone may benefit from a medically-assisted detox program. During medically-assisted detox, patients receive constant medical care and the treatments they need to safely and comfortable detox from opioids. Following detox, the woman might attend an addiction treatment program to supplement her recovery. Overall, hydrocodone in small, short-term amounts may be safe while breastfeeding, but only under the direction and supervision of a healthcare provider. Taking high doses of hydrocodone while breastfeeding is not considered safe.

If you believe you have a problem with hydrocodone or opioids, help is available. The Recovery Village offers a range of customized programs, including options for pregnant women and new mothers. Contact us today to take your life back and get started on the road to recovery.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.