For new moms, taking percocet while breastfeeding can be potentially dangerous to your baby if you don’t know the facts.

Needing to use medications is a common reason why women stop breastfeeding before they planned to or why they avoid breastfeeding to begin with. Using any type of substance while pregnant can be dangerous for the mother and baby; depending on what the substance is, determines how it affects a baby’s growth and development.

Once the baby is born and the mother is breastfeeding — if she’s able to — using substances can still pose a risk to the baby’s health. Percocet is the brand name of a prescribed pain medication combination of oxycodone (an opioid) and acetaminophen. Percocet is typically prescribed to patients who are suffering from acute pain from a physical injury or surgery. Whether a woman is using Percocet as prescribed or illicitly, she should be aware of the harm it can cause her baby while she’s breastfeeding.

Mothers concerned about their baby’s health should consult with their physician to find alternatives to Percocet or even seek treatment to detox from the drug.

There have been discussions about the risks associated with legitimate opioid use and misuse during pregnancy, but it’s important that the mother is aware of the possibility for other health conditions to develop in her baby if she is taking Percocet while breastfeeding.

Is It Safe to Take Percocet While Breastfeeding?

Oxycodone and acetaminophen can both be excreted through breast milk in low doses. An excess of breast milk containing Percocet could cause sedation, lethargy and respiratory issues in infants. If the mother is continuing Percocet usage while breastfeeding, and using a large dose for an extended period of time, the risk to the infant could be more significant. After giving birth, especially if it was a Cesarean birth, the new mother may be prescribed Percocet to help with the pain from birth. However, it has been discovered in studies that any dose of oxycodone greater than a maximum of 30 milligrams to 40 milligrams per day can demonstrate harmful effects on the infant. It is suggested that if the mother requires a dose higher than 30 milligrams to 40 milligrams a day, she and her health care provider should look into alternatives or she may be discouraged from breastfeeding.

If Percocet was prescribed after delivery, the risk is typically minimal until about the fourth day after delivery. After the fourth day following delivery, when the mother first produces an abundance of milk, the drug can be passed through the breastmilk to the infant. Starting on the fourth or fifth day following birth, most mothers will feel a decrease in pain and they should be able to manage it with non-opioids like Tylenol or Motrin. Another way a mother can safely use Percocet while breastfeeding is for the mother to breastfeed first and then take her medication for the day. This is an example of a case in which mothers had been taking Percocet for an extended period of time and couldn’t abruptly quit due to the risks associated with withdrawal. Many physicians suggest that mothers find an alternative to Percocet during pregnancy, as well as while breastfeeding, to ensure the health of the baby.

Alternatives to Taking Percocet While Breastfeeding

It is suggested by health care providers that if the mother is experiencing pain after birth, she should take non-opioid medications and over-the-counter medicines like Tylenol and Motrin. However, mothers should note that Tylenol contains acetaminophen which can still be excreted into breast milk, though in small amounts. Always consult with a medical professional before taking any new medications.

Natural Remedies for Pain While Breastfeeding

While Percocet or other medications in very low doses may have little effect on a mother’s breast milk, most health care providers suggest finding non-pharmacological therapies to deal with pain to ensure the health of the mother and baby.

Alternative medicine is often overlooked but has been found to help people with pain relief. Alternative medicine includes plant-based supplements like herbs and spices, acupuncture with heat and ice, yoga, reiki and more. Speak with a primary care provider or OB/GYN before trying these therapies.

How Long Does Percocet Stay in Your System?

The half-life of Percocet is generally estimated to be about three-and-a-half hours. On average, it typically takes a little over 19 hours for Percocet to fully pass through a person’s system. The acetaminophen component of Percocet usually takes less time to be eliminated: its half-life is estimated to be about two to three hours and is eliminated from the body in about 12.5 hours.For most people, Percocet should be out of the body after 24 hours.

However, there are individual factors that may determine the amount of time Percocet is present in an individual’s body. A mother’s height, weight and body fat percentage may cause Percocet to be metabolized at a different rate than a woman who is larger or smaller. Genetic components like liver and kidney health and metabolic rate may also affect the Percocet half-life and how long the drug stays in the person’s system. The dosage a mother takes also affects how long Percocet remains in the body. If she has been taking the drug for an extended period of time, or several times a day, it’s going to take longer for Percocet to exit a mother’s system.

Percocet Addiction

Because Percocet contains the synthetic opioid oxycodone, addiction can be a concern for mothers who have a history of addiction or develop a tolerance to the drug. Heavy use of Percocet as a result of a Percocet use disorder may inadvertently pass dependency from the mother to the infant.

Just like during pregnancy, mothers who have just given birth and are breastfeeding, or are planning to breastfeed, should consult with their health care provider about their use of Percocet. The mother should not suddenly stop taking Percocet because doing so could result in withdrawal symptoms developing.

If you or a loved one are struggling with Percocet abuse we can help. Contact The Recovery Village today to learn more about our evidence-based treatment programs.

Thomas Christiansen
Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
Conor Sheehy
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

Freyer, A M. “Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation 8th Edi[…]al and Neonatal Risk.” Obstetric Medicine vol. 2,2, 2009. Accessed January 23, 2019.

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.