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Using Prescription Painkillers When Pregnant

Opioid medications, when prescribed, can be helpful to relieve pain and physical discomfort. Even when prescribed by a physician, however, opioid medication can be problematic for several reasons, including the potential for misuse, addiction, and overdose.1

This article will explore how opioids work, what concerns exist for pregnant women using opioid medication, options for reducing or stopping opioid medication when pregnant, and support for women who are addicted to opioid medication.

How Do Opioids Work?

Opioids are most commonly used as painkillers and can help relieve acute pain after surgery or an injury.1 These types of painkillers act on opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord to reduce the intensity of the perception of pain.2

Commonly prescribed opioid medications include:

The use of opioid painkillers is generally safe when prescribed by a doctor and taken for a short period of time.2 Misuse of opioids occurs when someone:2

  • Takes a dose of medication that isn’t what is prescribed.
  • Uses a route of administration that is other than what is prescribed.
  • Takes medication that isn’t prescribed to them.
  • Takes the medication to feel euphoria or “high.”

Opioid painkillers have the potential to be highly addictive.2 This risk is present even when an opioid is legally prescribed; the risk increases the longer someone takes an opioid.1 Addiction occurs when someone compulsively seeks out and uses a substance despite the negative consequences.2

Is it Safe to Take Prescription Opioids While Pregnant?

Pregnant women may wonder about the safety of taking prescription opioids and have questions like, “can you take Percocet while pregnant?” It is recommended that pregnant women talk with their doctor about any medications they are taking or medications they want to stop taking while pregnant. This is true of over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, and any tobacco, alcohol, or illicit substances. The safety of taking opioids while pregnant will be dependent on many factors that are unique to each person, so it is important to discuss this with a doctor to determine the best course of action.3

It is recommended that pregnant women who take medication for an opioid use disorder (OUD) continue to take prescribed medication during pregnancy to avoid withdrawal and relapse.4 OUD medication, when prescribed by a physician and taken as prescribed, is generally considered to be safe for both the mother and fetus.4

Can You Discontinue Painkillers While Pregnant?

The decision to reduce or discontinue the use of opioids while pregnant or when planning to become pregnant should always be made in collaboration with your doctor.5 The process of reducing or stopping the use of opioids requires planning and medical oversight and will take your individual needs into account.

Stopping the use of opioids abruptly during pregnancy can cause withdrawal symptoms, which, in turn, has a high probability of serious negative impacts such as miscarriage and relapse.6 Therefore, consulting with your doctor to develop a plan for addressing opioid use is the safest course of action.5

Opioid Painkiller Detoxification While Pregnant

Medically supervised detox for pregnant women with an opioid use disorder has high rates of relapse and is generally not recommended.7,8,9 Pregnant women with opioid use disorder may be prescribed opioid agonist pharmacotherapy with care providers also modifying some elements of prenatal care in order to meet the clinical needs of a patient’s particular situation.

Treatment for Painkiller Addiction While Pregnant

If you or someone you care about is pregnant and have concerns about misuse or addiction to opioids, there are options for getting help. Treatment for opioid use disorder typically involves a combination of pharmacotherapy (i.e., medicines) and behavioral interventions (i.e., therapy). These can be accessed at varying levels of intensity, including:3

Some programs have tracks specifically designed to meet the needs of pregnant women and women with infants.3 Addiction treatment provides structure and support that is vital to developing a healthy life of recovery. During treatment, you can learn to address unhealthy thought processes; tolerate, and even change distressing emotions; create supportive relationships; and develop ongoing plans for support and recovery.3 Aftercare support can include group and individual therapy and ongoing medication management, as well as ongoing care for mother and baby.6

You can begin your recovery journey by using the treatment directory to locate the rehab that best fits your needs. You can also take a self-assessment, learn more about addiction and recovery, or search for rehab centers by location. Chat with an admissions navigator or call us directly to discuss what you’re looking for in treatment and recovery. Call .

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