Pregnancy, Percocet and Breastfeeding

Percocet is an effective prescribed pain medication combining oxycodone — a narcotic painkiller with effects similar to heroin — and acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol pain relievers. In larger doses and when abused, Percocet causes a state of euphoria and extreme relaxation similar to heroin or morphine. Percocet is typically given to patients suffering acute pain from physical injury or surgery. Although some expectant mothers use the drug, many women use Percocet prior to discovering they’re pregnant.

Using Percocet or other prescription drugs can be detrimental to a baby’s development in the first few months of life. Anything a mother consumes travels directly to her baby through the placenta, making fetuses susceptible to side effects and a number of health issues if mothers are not careful. It is important to know the risks of using Percocet and all alternatives to the drug so mothers can take the proper precautions.

Pregnancy, Percocet and Breastfeeding
It has become more prevalent for women to use painkillers or prescription medication during pregnancy for minor injuries, headaches and stress. However, it is crucial that expectant mothers understand the risks associated with each pill. Using Percocet or any other medication early in pregnancy can pose some health concerns for the baby and for the mother.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies medication based on levels of risk during pregnancy. They can range from Category A — indicating no risk or harm during pregnancy — to Category X — indicating extreme risk of birth anomalies to a developing fetus.  Percocet falls in the middle of the scale under Category C. Medications in Category C are still being tested, but have yet to produce enough research determining its risk to the mother and the child. In short, these drugs may be safe but they may also pose danger during pregnancy. The risks and benefits do not outweigh each other.

However, some studies show using opioid painkillers early in pregnancy could pose risk to a developing fetus, specifically in the first few months. It is important for women to be at their best health from conception through the first trimester. Using Percocet or other opioid painkillers during this time increases the likelihood of neural tube defects — birth defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord — in infants. Typically occurring in the first month of pregnancy, the most common neural tube defects include spina bifida and anencephaly, a condition that affects the brain and skull from fully developing.

Cases of neural tube defects in infants are rare, but they are possible. Percocet use during pregnancy is still being researched for its long-term effects on developing babies. While the likelihood of neural tube defects in babies is higher in women using opioid painkillers, there is not enough research to confirm a cause-and-effect relationship. Medical professionals only recommend taking medication containing oxycodone and acetaminophen if there are no alternatives.

Percocet is a concerning drug for expectant mothers to use because of the oxycodone it contains. Percocet also contains acetaminophen, which has been shown to be safe for use during pregnancy. Oxycodone is what causes medical professionals some concern. Similar to Percocet, oxycodone is a Category C medication and its effects during pregnancy are still being researched. However, it does have the ability to pose some risks.

Oxycodone is a man-made opiate drug prescribed to patients with moderate to severe pain. In large doses, oxycodone can be highly addictive. Women using oxycodone during pregnancy can increase the likelihood of neonatal abstinence syndrome — withdrawal symptoms from opiate drug addiction in infants. This largely depends on how long the mother used opiate drugs and how much she was prescribed.

Infants suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome are also more likely to have respiratory issues, seizures and low birth weights. Other common withdrawal symptoms in infants include:

  • Dehydration
  • Tremors
  • Feeding issues
  • Irritability

Long-term effects from oxycodone use early in pregnancy are still being researched, but infants have shown potential to suffer from some developmental delays.

Oxycodone and acetaminophen both can secrete through breast milk in low doses. This can still pose a risk to babies if they are being breastfed. To keep your baby as safe as possible, it’s important to consult with a physician on alternatives to breastfeeding or medication.

An excess of breast milk contaminated with oxycodone and acetaminophen could cause sedation, lethargy and respiratory issues in infants. If the mother is taking large doses of Percocet during breastfeeding, and is taking the drug for a prolonged period of time, there may be a significant risk to the infant.

If you can’t stop yourself from using Percocet, despite worrying for your baby’s health, you may be addicted to the opiate. This can be a scary time, but there is help available to you. Our team at The Recovery Village is experienced in working with oxycodone addicts from all walks of life. Let us help you keep your baby safe from the potentially harmful effects of Percocet addiction. Call us to discuss a treatment plan that’s best for your pregnancy and your baby’s health.  

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Haelle, T. (2015, April 13). ​Narcotic painkillers, common in pregnancy, can harm baby. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/narcotic-painkillers-commonly-used-in-pregnancy-harmful-to-baby-study/

MedlinePlus. (2015, November 3). Neonatal abstinence syndrome: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007313.htm

Ogbru, O. (2016, July 28). Percocet for Pain: Side Effects, Dosage, Addiction (oxycodone/ acetaminophen). Retrieved from http://www.medicinenet.com/oxycodone_and_acetaminophen/page2.htm#is_percocet_safe_to_use_during_pregnancy_or_while_breastfeeding

Salamon, M. (2013, September 10). Some Painkillers Tied to Certain Birth Defects in Study. Retrieved from https://consumer.healthday.com/disabilities-information-11/misc-birth-defect-news-63/some-painkillers-tied-to-certain-birth-defects-in-study-680013.html

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2015, January 9). FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA has reviewed possible risks of pain medicine use during pregnancy. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm429117.htm

Pregnancy, Percocet and Breastfeeding
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Pregnancy, Percocet and Breastfeeding was last modified: July 7th, 2017 by The Recovery Village