Vicodin During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

by on April 27, 2012


Vicodin has not been thoroughly studied in relation to pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, this is a Category C pregnancy medication indicating that it may cause adverse effects for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Vicodin may increase the risk of birth defects. Babies born to mothers who were taking Vicodin towards the end of their pregnancy may experience withdrawal symptoms including irritability, fever, vomiting, tremors and increased stools.

Vicodin does pass through the breast milk and may have dangerous side effects for the infant. If you notice side effects such as drowsiness and difficulty breathing in your infant, you should seek immediate medical attention. Always talk to your doctor about the dangers and benefits of Vicodin for you and your baby when considering this treatment.

Vicodin During Pregnancy

Vicodin is not safe to take while pregnant as it contains Hydrocodone which passes through the placenta to a growing baby.

Women who are attempting to become pregnant, already pregnant, should consult their Physician/Obstetrician or Nurse Midwife for instructions. There are some situations where Vicodin may be used; however, Vicodin is generally not safe for pregnant women.

When a mother consumes Vicodin, risks to a growing fetus (that has not been born yet) or a nursing infant (that is drinking breastmilk) include:

  • Changes in fetal brain waves
  • Decreased infant breath rate
  • Decrease in fetus and infant heart rate
  • Infant sleepiness and drowsiness
  • Risk that the infant will die from overdose
  • Risk that the mother or infant will become dependent upon Vicodin
  • Opioid withdraw and infant seizures
  • Infant liver failure and jaundice (yellow skin color)
  • Infant constipation and colic

As a FDA Pregnancy C prescription mediation, the scientific evidence on whether Vicodin causes harm to the fetus is still unclear.  However, miscarriages and deaths have occured in infants of mothers taking Vicodin. Women should discuss treatment options for post-delivery pain, C-section and episiotomy pain, and mastitis pain with their healthcare providers. One st udy in 2009 noted that small doses of Vicodin taken for short periods of time (24-48 hours) did not adversely affect the fetus or breasfeeding infant.

If opioid analgesics are needed for long-term control of pain during pregnancy, mothers are often prescribed Methadone. Methadone and Subutex can be safely used for pain relief during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Both pass through the placenta and into breastmilk; however, evidence has shown that they can be more easily tapered after the infant is born.

It should be noted that men who take Vicodin repeatedly over long periods of time have lower sperm counts.