Vicodin may be used safely in some circumstances during pregnancy, but it should only be taken under the direction of a doctor.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, if a pregnant woman takes hydrocodone combination drugs, such as Vicodin, regularly during pregnancy, her baby could experience withdrawal symptoms after birth. These symptoms can be life-threatening for the baby.
Women who are pregnant or who plan to become pregnant should let their doctor know about any use of Vicodin.
What is Vicodin?
Vicodin is a pain-relieving medication composed of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. The drug is used to treat moderate-to-severe pain.
It is considered a Schedule II drug, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Schedule II drugs such as Vicodin are considered to have a high potential for abuse. Regular use could lead to psychological and physical dependency.
Are There Safe Levels of Vicodin For Pregnant Women?
Vicodin is an opiate analgesic medication, which has been studied and found to be safe for use during pregnancy. However, research also notes that the use of opioid drugs later in pregnancy has been found to result in neonatal abstinence syndrome, which happens when a baby goes into withdrawal after birth.
One of the factors that will determine how risky Vicodin use is during pregnancy is the amount of drug used and the length of time it is being used. Women who take Vicodin for a short period and under their doctor’s guidance can use the medication safely to treat painful conditions.
Even when women take opioids as prescribed, their babies can still experience withdrawal symptoms after birth if the medications are taken later in pregnancy.
The risks associated with Vicodin increase with higher doses and prolonged use. These risks include developing a dependency on the medication and risks to the pregnancy associated with withdrawal symptoms when a woman becomes dependent on the drug.
Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the level of use before stopping the medication, so the effects of stopping use will vary.
Vicodin should never be used recreationally or without a prescription. Opioid medications can be highly addictive and have risks that can complicate a pregnancy, particularly if the medication is misused.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that there can be risks to the fetus associated with fluctuations of opioid levels in the body during pregnancy. This means that pregnant women who take Vicodin should not try to stop taking the medication abruptly. They should consult with their doctor about the safest way to stop or manage use. Risks associated with opioid misuse during pregnancy include the following:
- Preterm labor
- Fetal convulsions
- Neonatal abstinence syndrome
- Stunted growth
- Increased chance of poor prenatal care
- Maternal infections
These risks are heightened with larger and more frequent doses of opioids during pregnancy as well as with disruptive changes in the body associated with varying levels of opioids in the system.
What Options do Pregnant Women Have to Get Off Vicodin?
Women who become pregnant and want to stop taking Vicodin should first consult with their doctor about the dosages they are taking and how long they have been using the drug.
Recommendations for stopping Vicodin use during pregnancy are going to depend on different individual factors in each woman.
Women who have not been taking the medication for long or who are not otherwise addicted to opioids may be able to taper down their dosage, gradually reducing the amount of the medication they are taking. This slower step-down method of reducing the medication can help to prevent dramatic side effects or withdrawal symptoms.
Pregnant women who have been using a large amount of Vicodin for a prolonged period and those who have developed a dependency on opioid medications will need to use a different approach to withdrawal. After a full assessment, the supervising physician will develop an appropriate treatment plan that accounts for the more delicate medical situation of pregnancy.
The plan chosen will aim for the least amount of risk to mother and baby. Medication-assisted treatment can be used with pregnant women who are addicted to opioids. This may involve the use of treatment medications, such as methadone or buprenorphine, depending on the recommendations of the treating physician.
Is it Dangerous to Withdraw From Vicodin While Pregnant?
Yes, it can be dangerous to withdraw from Vicodin while pregnant, particularly if you have a prolonged history of use or a physical dependence on opioid medications. Symptoms of withdrawal can be unpleasant and even life-threatening for the mother and fetus if not monitored and treated.
Symptoms of Vicodin Withdrawal Include:
- Muscle pain
- Muscle spasms
The distress to the entire body during the withdrawal process could be particularly dangerous to the fetus and even trigger a miscarriage. These dangers are part of the reason why pregnant women who are dependent on opioid medications should not attempt to detox on their own. They need medical attention to safely manage the withdrawal process.
Oftentimes, it is not safe for pregnant women to come off Vicodin altogether. It may be safer to get into a medication-assisted treatment program to prevent withdrawal symptoms and cravings during pregnancy.
When a mother is dependent on opioid medications, her baby becomes dependent as well. After birth, the baby no longer receives the medication via the mother’s placenta, so the baby may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms as the medication begins to clear out of the baby’s body.
The baby may need to be treated for neonatal abstinence syndrome after birth. This must be closely monitored and treated by medical professionals who have the experience and knowledge to address any symptoms and safety concerns that arise. They will also aim to keep the baby as comfortable as possible during this uncomfortable process.
Talk to Your Doctor
Vicodin use can be safe in pregnancy in some instances when used as directed.
If you are pregnant and using Vicodin, talk to your doctor about the best path forward. If you use Vicodin and want to get pregnant, talk to your doctor about how to safely wean off the medication before getting pregnant.