Is Tapentadol Safe to Take While Pregnant?
Tapentadol is a generic opioid. When someone uses tapentadol, it changes how pain signals are sent to the brain. It also changes their emotional response and experience of the pain. Tapentadol is similar to the drug tramadol. This is because it not only activates opioid receptors, but it also inhibits the absorption of the brain neurotransmitter norepinephrine. The strength of tapentadol falls somewhere between tramadol and morphine, and the pain-relieving effects are often compared to oxycodone. Tapentadol can be used to treat acute pain from something such as surgery or an injury. Tapentadol may also be prescribed to treat chronic pain, such as musculoskeletal pain or diabetic neuropathy.
The most common side effects reported with tapentadol are similar to those of other opioids. Nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, and itchiness are all common side effects. Respiratory depression is possible with tapentadol, although this isn’t a particularly potent opioid. Tapentadol does appear to have a lower potential for abuse than many other opioids. Despite this evidence, tapentadol is a Schedule II drug in the U.S. Drug interactions are possible with the use of this medication. It shouldn’t be combined with certain antidepressants such as SSRIs, SNRIs or MAOIs. It shouldn’t be used along with other central nervous system depressants like alcohol or benzodiazepines.
So, is tapentadol safe to take while pregnant? While the answer may be frustrating, doctors don’t know for sure. The use of tapentadol may be safe during pregnancy, but risks may exist as well. Tapentadol falls into the gray area that so many other drugs do during pregnancy. The FDA classifies tapentadol as a category C drug. Category C drugs have shown fetal harm in animal studies; however, there aren’t enough human studies to determine whether or not the drug is safe. Therefore, it should be left up to a healthcare provider to determine whether or not it is safe to take the drug. If the benefits of the drug outweigh the risks, it might be prescribed during pregnancy.
The potential for risks can’t be ruled out with tapentadol. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently released research indicating that opioids can increase the potential for certain birth defects when used during pregnancy. One birth defect linked to opioids, in general, is spina bifida -a neural tube defect. There is also limited evidence that opioid use during pregnancy can increase the chances of a congenital heart defect, as well as a buildup of fluid in the brain. The risks of tapentadol during pregnancy may be especially significant during the first trimester when major organ development is happening. Using tapentadol doesn’t mean with certainty that a baby will have a birth defect or that complications will occur, but the potential is there. It’s important to speak openly and honestly with your healthcare provider about the use of any medications during pregnancy.
One risk that’s more likely to happen is neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). If a baby is exposed to tapentadol while in the womb, NAS may occur. The baby can become dependent on tapentadol, and after delivery may go through withdrawal. NAS symptoms can be mild or severe, and often require treatment in the NICU after birth. NAS can include symptoms like excessive crying, irritability, fever, tremors, and problems eating and sleeping. The problems with eating can lead to difficulties gaining weight and diagnosis of failure to thrive. The closer to delivery a pregnant woman uses tapentadol, the more likely these symptoms are to occur.
There are alternatives to taking tapentadol during pregnancy. If you were prescribed tapentadol before you became pregnant, don’t stop using it without speaking to your healthcare provider. Tapentadol can lead to withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop, which can cause pregnancy complications and may lead to a miscarriage. Instead, talk to your doctor about how to safely discontinue your use of tapentadol and, if needed, start a non-opioid pain medication. If you’re recreationally abusing tapentadol, you may also need to gradually taper down your dosage. A medically-supervised detox is a safe option for pregnant women who want to stop their recreational abuse of opioids like tapentadol. Beyond that, participation in an addiction treatment program can be helpful as well.
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