Taking Percocet While Breastfeeding: What You Need To Know

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Needing to use medications is often the most common reason women stop breastfeeding before they planned to or why they may not even start. 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 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.

Opioids are commonly prescribed to women during and after pregnancy for minor injuries, headaches and stress. 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. Due to the national opioid epidemic, health specialists and physicians are more cautious about prescribing opioids, so a mother who uses Percocet may find herself having to find an alternative for the drug anyway.

Oxycodone and acetaminophen can both be excreted through breast milk in low doses. An excess of breast milk contaminated with 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 recent studies that any dose of oxycodone greater than 40 milligrams per day can demonstrate harmful effects on the infant. It is suggested that if the mother requires a dose higher than 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,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.

Taking Percocet While Breastfeeding: What You Need To Know

The half-life of Percocet is generally estimated to be about three-and-a-half hours. In some cases, the Percocet half-life may only be one hour and forty-five minutes,. 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 far less time to be eliminated:it’s estimated to be about two to three hours total.

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 excreted 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.

The manufacturers of Percocet as well as health care providers, do not recommend using the drug while breastfeeding. Some potential side effects for an infant breastfeeding from a mother taking Percocet include:

  • Excessive sleeping
  • Trouble breathing or respiratory issues
  • Difficulty feeding

Percocet Addiction 

Because Percocet is a synthetic opioid, 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 a withdrawal symptoms developing.

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, mother’s should note that Tylenol contains acetaminophen which can still be excreted into breast milk, though in small amounts.

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 more natural ways 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, yoga, reiki and more.

Some plant-based and natural pain relief may include:

  • Willow bark
  • Turmeric
  • Cloves
  • Acupuncture
  • Heat and ice

Some pain may be so severe that only a prescription painkiller can help alleviate it. It’s important for mothers to talk to their health care providers about their existing prescriptions and before taking any over-the-counter drugs, to ensure the safety of their baby and themselves.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be struggling with a Percocet use disorder, help is available. Call The Recovery Village to speak with a representative and learn about treatment options. The call is free, confidential and there is no obligation to enroll.

Taking Percocet While Breastfeeding: What You Need To Know
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