Generally, hydrocodone use should be avoided when a woman is pregnant. The risk of hydrocodone use during pregnancy often outweighs the potential benefits of taking the drug, as hydrocodone can cross from mother to baby through the placenta. Hydrocodone has the potential to harm a baby in the womb as well as after the child is born.

Hydrocodone use during breastfeeding should be avoided, as well. There is very limited evidence that hydrocodone is excreted in breast milk, but babies are sensitive to the effects of hydrocodone, so even small amounts present in breast milk may cause complications. For most women, it is best to avoid hydrocodone while breastfeeding.

Hydrocodone and Pregnancy

Hydrocodone can cross the placenta, meaning that when the mother takes the medication it reaches the baby through the bloodstream. This effect can potentially harm the child in several ways, including:

  • Miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Preterm delivery
  • Birth defects of the heart, brain, spine or abdomen
  • Stunted growth and low birthweight
  • Withdrawal symptoms in newborns are known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)

Some women need hydrocodone during pregnancy. However, the decision to do so needs to occur with a medical professional so that the risks are understood. If hydrocodone use is necessary, there are some strategies to reduce exposure to the baby, including:

  • Taking the medication at the lowest dose and for the shortest time necessary
  • Scheduling regular follow-ups with a doctor
  • Never exceed the directions on the prescription

If you are already taking hydrocodone and become pregnant, contact your doctor immediately. You should not stop taking hydrocodone on your own because abruptly stopping the medication — especially if you have used it for a while — can also harm the baby.

Hydrocodone Born Babies

Hydrocodone use during pregnancy can cause NAS. This syndrome occurs when the baby becomes dependent on a drug used by the mother during pregnancy. NAS can lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms in a newborn, such as:

  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Irritability
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty feeding

NAS can be so severe that newborns must stay in the hospital for weeks and manage symptoms with other opioids. If hydrocodone is used too close to labor, the baby may have difficulty breathing. Incidents of NAS increased five-fold between 2000 and 2012, emphasizing the growing need to monitor opioid use in pregnant women.

NAS most commonly occurs in women with opioid use disorder, so treatment with MAT and drug counseling is important to minimize addiction risk and hydrocodone use.

Hydrocodone and Breastfeeding

Limited evidence is available whether hydrocodone is excreted in breast milk. However, it is still recommended to avoid hydrocodone while breastfeeding. Babies are sensitive to the effects of opioids, so even fractions of the dose that the mother has taken can affect the baby. Signs that a baby may have been exposed to hydrocodone include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Limpness
  • Difficulty breastfeeding

Contact a doctor immediately if you believe a baby has been exposed to hydrocodone.

If pain treatment is needed during breastfeeding, doctors will likely recommend non-drug treatment or use of other drugs that are not excreted in breast milk. If hydrocodone is necessary while breastfeeding, the lowest dose should be used for the shortest duration of time. Always consult with a doctor to determine exact amounts of medication to take.

If a baby is born with NAS, the mother is encouraged to breastfeed, even if receiving treatment with methadone or buprenorphine. Breastfeeding in babies with NAS has been shown to reduce the length in hospital stay for NAS treatment.

How Can New or Expecting Mothers Find Help for Addiction?

Opioid use disorder can be dangerous for the baby during pregnancy, so women living with an addiction should seek help immediately. The best place to start is with her OB/GYN specialist or primary care provider. They should be knowledgeable of local resources and can help the mother receive the necessary care to ensure the health of her baby.

Key Points: Hydrocodone, Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding

Here are a few key points to keep in mind regarding hydrocodone use during pregnancy and breastfeeding:

  • In general, hydrocodone should not be used during pregnancy as it can harm the baby
  • If you are using opioids and are pregnant or may become pregnant, contact your doctor to determine the best strategy for you
  • Newborns exposed to hydrocodone during pregnancy may experience dangerous withdrawal effects known as NAS
  • In general, hydrocodone should be avoided while breastfeeding as limited evidence suggests that it may be excreted in breast milk
  • Signs a baby may have been exposed to hydrocodone through breast milk include slow breathing, excessive sleepiness, or limpness
  • Breastfeeding is beneficial for babies with NAS

Recovery is possible, and it will ensure the safety of the mother as well as the child. If you are struggling with hydrocodone or opioid addiction, contact a representative from The Recovery Village today to learn more about treatment options. Help is just one call away.

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