Is It Safe to Take Lortab While Pregnant?
As the opioid epidemic claims lives every day in the United States, highly addictive opioids like Lortab garner all types of public attention and scrutiny. Although the use of painkilling drugs can be perilous for many people, expectant mothers should be especially wary of taking Lortab while pregnant. If a pregnant woman ingests a higher dosage of Lortab than necessary, she can develop a physical tolerance to it and may even become addicted to the drug. For this reason, Lortab and pregnancy aren’t a good mix.
What Is Lortab?
As a prescription painkiller, Lortab is a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Designed to treat moderate-to-moderately severe pain, Lortab can be prescribed in varying strengths and is available as a tablet or liquid (Lortab elixir). Hydrocodone comprises the opioid component of Lortab while acetaminophen is the active ingredient in the over-the-counter drug Tylenol. These two substances amplify each other’s effects, making Lortab excellent at relieving physical pain. However, because it does have an opioid component, Lortab can be habit-forming.
To understand how a physical tolerance to Lortab develops, it’s important to realize that opioids like hydrocodone carry a high abuse potential. Like all opioids, hydrocodone binds to opioid receptors in the brain and triggers the flow of dopamine to mask physical pain. The inclusion of acetaminophen in Lortab makes the drug even more effective because it blocks chemically-induced pain signals. To keep recurring pain at bay, women may take more Lortab than necessary, making their bodies increasingly tolerant to the drug. Over time, taking increasing amounts of Lortab can lead to physical dependence and a Lortab addiction.
While Lortab excels at relieving pain, its use can be risky, even if a woman is not taking Lortab while pregnant. For example, hydrocodone can cause severe respiratory depression resulting in coma, and in some cases, death. Acetaminophen, while it’s not habit-forming, can cause liver damage or acute liver failure. Women who want to avoid these risks at all costs can benefit from non-opioid alternatives to Lortab while pregnant.
How Can Lortab Affect Your Baby?
There are different reasons a woman might be taking Lortab while pregnant. One example is inadvertent use or using Lortab while unaware of their pregnancy. In another situation, a woman could be addicted to Lortab. In this case, it would be difficult for her to stop using the drug and physically dangerous to do so without medical care, as Lortab withdrawal symptoms can be harmful.
Lortab Use and Breastfeeding
Most drugs that a new mother ingests can also affect her newborn if the woman breastfeeds her baby. The active ingredients in Lortab, hydrocodone and acetaminophen, can be passed from mother to baby through breastmilk, so nursing mothers should be cautious of taking potentially harmful drugs like Lortab.
Regardless of how or why a woman uses Lortab, the use of opioid pain-relievers during pregnancy can be problematic, for both the mother and her unborn baby. Unfortunately, the specific risks of taking Lortab while pregnant have yet to be defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). No studies have been performed in women taking Lortab, but there is potential for adverse effects in a developing fetus. Lortab should only be taken during pregnancy if the potential benefit outweighs this risk.
Babies Born Addicted to Lortab
Opioids should always be used with caution, especially during the late stages of pregnancy. If a mother consumed opioids during the final weeks of her pregnancy, her baby may need to be observed carefully after birth for signs of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). This condition causes babies to be born addicted to opioids and experience withdrawal symptoms upon birth. A baby who is born addicted to Lortab may cry excessively, experience tremors and have a high fever among other serious NAS symptoms.
NAS may also be responsible for low birth weight, heart defects and other developmental challenges. In addition to experiencing NAS, babies are at a greater risk of developing a neural tube birth defect if their mother takes opioids, like Lortab, during the first two months of pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For this reason, if a woman is addicted to Lortab and also pregnant, she is advised to seek treatment to stop using Lortab and prevent the development of NAS and other developmental issues in her unborn baby.
Alternatives to Taking Lortab While Pregnant
For an expectant mother to avoid a potential opioid addiction and the development of NAS in her baby, she should consult with her doctor about alternatives to Lortab while pregnant. On its own, acetaminophen is generally safe for pregnant women to take in small doses, but it is one of only a few over-the-counter substances that doesn’t pose significant risks to an unborn baby. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (the main ingredient in Advil and Motrin) and naproxen (the active ingredient in Aleve) are a few types of these readily available drugs that expectant mothers should avoid as they may increase the risk of miscarriage and birth defects.
To avoid harmful interactions, an expectant mother can forgo prenatal drug use altogether and use natural remedies for pain while pregnant. Women can reduce prenatal pain in a variety of ways, and effective, natural remedies for pain while pregnant include:
- Taking a warm bath or shower: Sitting or standing in warm water can relieve the sharp pains and cramps in stretched muscles and ligaments.
- Using a heating pad: For pregnant women, heat can help soothe pain in any part of the body.
- Eating a balanced diet: Fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole-grain cereals can help reduce digestive system pain in pregnant women.
- Investing in massage therapy: As backaches are a reality for many pregnant women, regular sessions with a masseuse can help ease the pain in this area of the body.
Pregnant women should always consult with their doctor before adjusting their pain management approach in any way. If you are an expectant mother who wants to manage prenatal pain safely and effectively, talk with your primary care doctor or pharmacist to find the right remedy for you. Some medications may be cleared by your doctor, but exercise caution in taking opioids like Lortab.
If you are no longer pregnant and find yourself unable to stop taking Lortab, help is available. Call The Recovery Village to learn more about accredited rehab facilities and programs in your area.
Have more questions about Lortab abuse?Read the most frequently asked questions
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