Is it okay to take Narcotics while pregnant?

During pregnancy, everything a woman comes into contact with can affect the fetus developing in her womb. This is because many drugs and substances have the ability to cross the placental barrier, which is the fetus’ main source of food during pregnancy. Because the fetus is extremely sensitive during pregnancy, it is recommended that pregnant women monitor everything they put into their bodies and avoid using drugs as much as possible. This includes avoiding prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and illegal substances. However, some women may be approved to use medications during pregnancy if they depend on them to function in their daily lives, or if their doctor believes the benefits of the medication outweigh the potential risks to the fetus.

Several drugs fall under the category of narcotics. In general, narcotics are used to treat severe pain both chronic and acute. When medical professionals talk about narcotics, they’re talking about opiates and opioids. The most common of these are morphine, heroin, codeine, and thebaine. Synthetics like oxycodone are also within the text of narcotics.

The type of narcotic and the dosage, along with individual factors, will determine the risk of side effects. All medications carry such a risk. The most common side effects from taking narcotics as directed are:

  • Mental/mood changes
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Weight loss
  • Fainting
  • Seizure
  • Slow/shallow breathing
  • Severe drowsiness or difficulty waking up

Depending on the narcotic you are taking, there may be additional side effects you could experience. If you experience any side effects at all, talk to your doctor, so he can help you manage your pain in the safest way possible.

If you are taking narcotics while pregnant, there are risks to consider with regards to your baby. Some studies have shown no correlation between taking narcotics while pregnant and damage to your unborn child. Specific studies on humans have not been done in that respect, but data collected has shown taking narcotics as directed to manage pain is relatively safe to do while pregnant.

Other studies have shown using narcotics while pregnant can increase the chance of a premature birth, which can lead to a whole host of issues for the infant at the beginning and throughout the child’s life.

The key is to only take the narcotics as directed, and as prescribed by a qualified doctor. Special care should be taken in the third trimester, as that is the closest time to the baby’s birth.

Taking narcotics while pregnant does run a risk of leading to physical dependence for the baby and may cause withdrawal symptoms upon birth.

If you are currently using any of the aforementioned narcotics and become pregnant, let your doctor know as soon as possible. You should also discuss with your provider if you want to continue using the medications throughout your pregnancy. If you do not want to use the medications, ask your doctor about tapering off the drug. This strategy allows your body to adjust to less and less of the medication over time while avoiding severe withdrawal symptoms. Avoiding withdrawal as much as possible is important because the effects may negatively impact yours and therefore the fetus’ health.

Will taking Narcotics cause birth defects?

While little to no direct correlation has been established linking taking narcotics while pregnant and birth defects, risks do exist.

If a baby is born prematurely, they may have developmental issues both mentally and physically. In addition, the baby may be born addicted to the opioid and go through neonatal abstinence syndrome. Low birth weight, respiratory and feeding issues, as well as complicated births, are just a few of the problems a baby may face. Neonatal abstinence syndrome can be lethal in some situations. Contact your baby’s doctor right away if you notice these neonatal abstinence syndrome symptoms in your newborn.

Keep in mind that whatever a mother ingests while pregnant, the unborn child is also ingesting that substance. Work with your doctor to manage your pain while pregnant. Discuss the risks and benefits of using narcotics while pregnant to decide if doing so is the right choice for you and your baby.

If you are pregnant and have a dependence or addiction to narcotis, seek a medically assisted detoxification and rehabilitation program right away. Enrolling in these treatment options will help you get sober and minimize the risk of negative effects on the fetus due to narcotics misuse and abuse.

If you or a loved one is struggling with narcotics or a substance use disorder or have questions about taking narcotics while pregnant, don’t delay. Go online to or call our 24-hour, toll-free hotline at 855-548-9825 to learn more about the road to recovery. We can help answer your questions and help you overcome your addiction 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.