Women experiencing pain during pregnancy may have common concerns about taking painkillers. Some painkillers are more potent than others. Lortab, which contains the opioid painkiller hydrocodone, is associated with risks to both mother and fetus when taken during pregnancy.
Why Women May Take Lortab When Pregnant
There are several reasons a woman might take Lortab while pregnant. First, inadvertent use is possible if a woman is not yet aware she is pregnant. Also, a woman could be already addicted to Lortab before becoming pregnant. In this case, it might be difficult for her to stop using the drug, and physically dangerous to do so without medical care because Lortab withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous.
As the opioid epidemic continues claiming lives in the United States, concerns about highly addictive opioids like Lortab also grow. Although the use of painkilling drugs can be dangerous for many people, expectant mothers should be especially careful when 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. Also, the unborn child can become physically dependent on the drug, which can have serious consequences after birth.
Lortab also contains seven percent alcohol. Alcohol use during pregnancy is also associated with risks to the developing child, so it is generally not advisable to use even small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy.
While Lortab relieves pain, its use can be risky, even if it’s not being taken during pregnancy. 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 liver failure. Women who want to avoid these risks can benefit from non-opioid alternatives to Lortab while pregnant.
Effects of Using Lortab while Pregnant
Although no definitive study shows exactly how opioid use during pregnancy affects an unborn baby, using an opioid-like Lortab during pregnancy is associated with many risks. Some of these risks include premature birth, low birth weight, malnutrition, seizures, and death.
Babies Born on Lortab
According to a 2018 report, the rate of opioid use disorder observed in women giving birth in the United States increased from about 1.5 cases per 1000 deliveries in 1999 to 6.5 cases per 1000 deliveries in 2014. This indicates a major increase in the percentage of babies born to women using opioids during pregnancy.
One of the most well-known risks associated with substance use during pregnancy is called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). If the substance used during pregnancy is specifically an opioid, it is called Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome (NOWS). The syndromes develop after a baby was exposed to opioids during pregnancy and then, after birth, is no longer exposed to them. Since the baby has had opioids in their system before being born, the body has grown accustomed to the opioid, so sudden discontinuation causes withdrawal in the infant.
Common symptoms include:
- Uncontrollable crying
NAS/NOWS must be treated quickly as it can be life-threatening.
Alternatives to Lortab During Pregnancy
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, as it is one of the few over-the-counter substances that doesn’t pose significant risks to an unborn baby.
To avoid risk, an expectant mother can avoid prenatal drug use altogether and use natural remedies for pain while pregnant. Women can reduce prenatal pain in a variety of ways. Some natural remedies for treating 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: 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 many pregnant women deal with backaches, regular sessions with a masseuse can help ease pain in this area of the body.
Lortab 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.
If a mother is breastfeeding while taking Lortab, she should be aware that it can cause problems in the infant due to the opioid effects. Nursing mothers should watch for difficulty breathing, increased drowsiness and the baby going limp. All of these signs can indicate opioid overdose in the baby and require immediate medical attention.
Key Points: Lortab, Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding
- Lortab use during pregnancy can result in many risks to the developing fetus and cause problems even after the baby is born
- Since Lortab contains an opioid, it carries risks from the mother to the infant during pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Risks to the mother include opioid dependence and addiction, along with the standard physical side effects of opioid use
- Risks to a developing fetus include premature birth, low birth weight, malnutrition, seizures and death
- Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) is a serious condition that can occur in an infant born to a mother who used opioids like Lortab during pregnancy
- NAS is characterized by tremors, excessive crying, seizures, and irritability
- Opioids can pass into breast milk, so nursing mothers must be aware that their babies may show signs of opioid use, including excessive drowsiness, limpness and decreased breathing
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. Your doctor may clear some medications, but use caution when 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.
Dailymed. “Lortab (syrup).” November 2018. Accessed April 16, 2019. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Treating Opioid Use Disorder During Pregnancy.” July 2017. Accessed April 21, 2019. Kocherloakota, P. “Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.” August 2014. Accessed April 21, 2019. Haight, SC, et al. “Opioid Use Disorder Documented at Delivery Hospitalization — United States, 1999–2014.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 10, 2018. Accessed April 21, 2019.
Dailymed. “Lortab (syrup).” November 2018. Accessed April 16, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Treating Opioid Use Disorder During Pregnancy.” July 2017. Accessed April 21, 2019.
Kocherloakota, P. “Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.” August 2014. Accessed April 21, 2019.
Haight, SC, et al. “Opioid Use Disorder Documented at Delivery Hospitalization — United States, 1999–2014.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 10, 2018. Accessed April 21, 2019.