Taking Oxycodone While Breastfeeding: What You Need to Know

Childbirth can be a traumatic experience for your body. After giving birth traditionally or by cesarean section, mothers may be prescribed painkiller medications to alleviate discomfort. A popular medication used to treat post-pregnancy pain is oxycodone.

Sold under the brands OxyContin and Percocet, oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid medication intended to treat moderate to severe pain for up to 12 hours per dose depending on the specific medication prescribed. Oxycodone is often used to reduce pain associated with conditions like cancer or arthritis, and it is chemically similar to codeine.

Abuse of oxycodone can lead to drug addiction. People who use the drug in high doses or for longer than intended may develop a substance use disorder. A severe substance use disorder involving oxycodone increases the risk of long-term health complications, overdose or death.

If you choose to breastfeed your newborn, it is important to know the effects of opioids before you take them. Before using an opioid like oxycodone, consult with a health care expert to learn how the medication can affect your baby while breastfeeding.

Pregnancy, Oxycodone and Breastfeeding
When taking oxycodone while breastfeeding, the drug can pass through your breast milk and affect your child. Research on the effects of oxycodone while breastfeeding is limited, but some studies have shown that taking oxycodone during this time can have harmful effects on infants.

A study published in The Journal of Pediatrics found that oxycodone is no safer than codeine when taken while breastfeeding. In the study, researchers surveyed 533 women who had questions about using acetaminophen, codeine or oxycodone to reduce pain while breastfeeding. The mothers were then asked to report the effects that these drugs had on their health and the health of their infant.

According to the report, 20 percent of 139 mothers who took oxycodone while breastfeeding reported that their child experienced symptoms of central nervous system depression, like lethargy or extreme sleepiness. Conversely, just 16.7 percent of mothers who used codeine while breastfeeding identified these symptoms in their infant.

A 2013 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that oxycodone is not recommended while breastfeeding because of the central nervous system problems that can occur in newborns. In fact, the warning label on Percocet states that the medication should not be taken during breastfeeding because of possible respiratory depression in infants.

Taking oxycodone in doses greater than 40 milligrams per day is associated with health complications in breastfed children. In addition to respiratory problems, higher levels of oxycodone in breast milk can lead to an infant developing opioid dependence. Being dependent on an opioid like oxycodone can result in withdrawal symptoms, like tremors and high-pitched screaming.

Different opioids stay in your body for various amounts of time. Semi-synthetic opioids like oxycodone or methadone typically remain in the body longer than do naturally occurring opiates, like codeine or morphine.

The amount of time oxycodone stays in your system varies based on several factors. A person’s gender, age, liver and kidney health, history of oxycodone use and use of other drugs can affect the duration of the drug in his or her body. According to Healthline, oxycodone can be traced in saliva and urine for up to four days and in your hair for up to 90 days after last use. Another factor is which product someone takes, as OxyContin’s effects last longer than Percocet or another immediate-release oxycodone product.

A study published in The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology indicated that oxycodone can remain in breast milk for up to 72 hours after cesarean section surgery. In the study, 41 infants received breast milk from a mother with oxycodone in her system. Although just one newborn had detectable levels of the drug in his or her plasma 48 hours after their mother’s oxycodone use, low volumes of breast milk were ingested by infants during this period.

Many medical experts promote the benefits of breastfeeding on infants. Among the advantages of breastfeeding are that it can provide nutritionally balanced meals and protection against childhood infections. Despite its benefits, taking oxycodone while breastfeeding can still cause harmful consequences in infants.

An infant who receives breast milk with traces of oxycodone can experience side effects that may include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Lethargy
  • Trouble breastfeeding

If a breastfeeding mother is addicted to oxycodone, it is difficult for her to stop using the drug. Addiction is a disease that is hard to manage. Infants who receive breast milk from mothers addicted to opioids are at an increased risk of experiencing the harmful effects of these drugs when compared with newborns who receive breast milk from mothers who take oxycodone as instructed.

If you are prescribed oxycodone while breastfeeding, be sure to take the medication as instructed by your physician. Taking oxycodone in higher doses or for longer than directed can have negative effects on you and your infant.

Opioids are often used after labor, particularly after cesarean section surgery. According to a 2017 study by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, 91 percent of women who had a cesarean delivery needed opioids to relieve pain. On average, it took nine days for these mothers to stop using opioids.

Instead of prescribing opioids, some physicians use an anesthetic called bupivacaine to treat post-pregnancy pain in female patients. Inserting the anesthetic at the area of the cesarean incision can relieve pain for several days. According to the drug company Pacira Pharmaceuticals, bupivacaine reduces opioid consumption by 78 percent.

However, Drugs.com states that low levels of bupivacaine can show up in breast milk. While studies associated with bupivacaine have not found its presence in breast milk to cause adverse reactions in infants, you should consult with your doctor before using the anesthetic.

Research has also indicated that relaxation techniques can help reduce pain. These exercises include deep-breathing techniques, self-hypnosis and biofeedback. Biofeedback involves using electronic devices to consciously control body functions like breathing or heart rate.

Yoga is another popular relaxation technique used to mitigate pain. Yoga involves body poses and breathing exercises that calm the body and mind. However, it is important to speak with your yoga instructor prior to participation so that he or she can help you avoid movements that could exacerbate your pain. Additionally, it’s recommended for new mothers to discuss yoga participation with their primary physician as they may have limitations regarding physical activity after childbirth.

Oxycodone addiction can affect many aspects of your life. It can lead to health, social and legal problems. A substance use disorder can also prevent a mother from properly caring for her infant. To learn ways to better manage your addiction, seek treatment.

The Recovery Village provides treatment centers across the United States. These facilities employ evidence-based strategies for treating substance use disorders, including those involving opioids like oxycodone. These safe and secure locations have helped many people heal. To find out how treatment can assist you in managing your addiction, contact The Recovery Village today.

Harvard Health Publishing. “Yoga for Pain Relief.” April 2015.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “Relaxation Techniques for Health.” May 2016.

Healthline. “Amid Opioid Crisis, New Moms Are Looking for Alternative Pain Relievers.” July 3, 2018.

Science Daily. Evidence-based approach to treating post-delivery pain in new moms during opioid crisis” November 14, 2017.

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “What Are the Benefits of Breastfeeding?” 7/27/2018

Healthline. “How Long Does Oxycodone Stay in Your System?” January 10, 2018.

American Academy of Pediatrics. “The Transfer of Drugs and Therapeutics into Human Breast Milk: an Update on Selected Topics.”  September 2013

MedicineNet. “Oxycodone.” 7/30/2018


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