Using Hydrocodone during pregnancy or breastfeeding-Is it safe?

During pregnancy or breastfeeding women need to be very careful before they choose to use any medication for health ailments. Consulting your doctor can help you take the right decision. Depending on how severe your medical condition is and how any particular medication is going to work for you, you doctor can advice you on whether to take the mediation or not or what will be the right dose for you.

This article will help you know about use of hydrocodone during pregnancy or breastfeeding and whether it is safe for you.

Hydrocodone and Pregnancy

One of the major concerns of using hydrocodone during pregnancy is its effects on expecting mom. If the expecting mom has been taking hydrocodone for quite some time and developed drug dependency, she may experience certain withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, sweating, pain once she stops taking hydrocodone. If used for a long term it can cause liver failure or liver toxicity, putting the life of mother and unborn baby at risk.

A woman who gets addicted to a painkiller such as hydrocodone might not be focusing on her health as she should during her pregnancy. This can lead to improper prenatal care, poor nutrition which can  get ransferred to her baby.

When used under the supervision of a doctor for a short term, there are no evidences available that show that hydrocodone can cause long term effects to unborn babies. Using hydrocodone in excess amounts and getting addictive to the drug can lead to severe complications to the baby, especially after birth.

There are still no evidences that prove whether hydrocodone leads to birth defects or not, still doctors and pregnant women need to outweigh the risks and benefits of the  drug before using them.

Hydrocodone and Breastfeeding

During breastfeeding, the medications you use get transmitted to your baby’s body through breast milk. According to research pain relievers or oral narcotics like hydrocodone can lead to depression, problems in central nervous system, drowsiness and death.

While breastfeeding, your baby can be sensitive to low dosages of hydrocodone. As soon as you start breastfeeding, try to use non narcotic medications to treat initial symptoms of pain. Restrict the consumption of hydrocodone for a couple of days. If needed, you can use maximum 30 mg dosage of hydrocodone daily and monitor the health of your baby regularly.

Hydrocodone and breastfeeding – side effects

There are some minor side effects that can arise due to consumption of hydrocodone. If you notice the symptoms as listed below, consult your physician immediately

  1. Drowsiness
  2. Dry throat
  3. Nausea
  4. Constipation
  5. Mood swings
  6. Dry throat
  7. Dizziness
  8. Anxiety
  9. Problems related to urination
  10. Itching
  11. Mood swings
  12. Skin rashes

Before you use hydrocodone during breastfeeding, let your doctor know if you are a heart patient, use sleeping pills, tranquilizers, sedatives etc., your doctor will change hydrocodone dose and keep a track of your health conditions and diagnose for any symptoms of side effects right from beginning.

Unpleasant Hydrocodone side effects that need emergency medical help

Any narcotic medications can help you get rid of unbearable pain, but using the drug for a long term or in high doses can lead to severe side effects too. Hydrocodone is like any other narcotic drug that comes with a lot of unpleasant side effects that need emergency medical help.

Short term side effects of Hydrocodone

Major side effects- Less common

  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Body pain or aches
  • Bloating/Swelling of feet, lower legs, arms, face and hands
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Voice loss
  • Nervousness or fear
  • Runny nose
  • Unexpected weight gain
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Headache
  • Unusual weight loss or weight gain
  • Tingling of feet and hands
  • Sore throat
  • Chest tightness
  • Ear congestion
  • Breathing problems

Some people get used to the drug and this often results in addiction and overdose. The symptoms of overdose that you need to be aware of

  • Blurred vision
  • Increased sweating
  • Confusion
  • Clammy or cold skin
  • Discomfort or chest pain
  • No muscle movement or tone
  • Pale skin
  • Unusual drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Decreased responsiveness or awareness
  • Constricted pupil
  • Irregular , shallow, slow or fast breathing
  • Coughing with frothy and pink sputum

Minor Side effects

Some of the Hydrocodone side effects are minor and may not require medical attention. As the body gets used to the medicine the side effects vanish with time. Your physician can also guide you on how to prevent some of these side effects and if these side effects exist for a long time, contact your health care provider.

More common

  • Bowel movement problems
  • Nausea

Less common

  • Back pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Heartburn
  • Bladder pain
  • Itching skin
  • Muscle spasms
  • Side pain or lower back pain
  • Painful, difficult or burning urination
  • Cloudy or bloody urine
  • Vomiting

Long term side effects of Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone brings in expected relief for some and comes as  a side effect for others. Using Hydrocodone repeatedly can cause tolerance and you need a high dose of the drug to get the same effect as the body gets used to the frequency and dose. Tolerance leads to addiction and impacts your life negatively.

Long term side effects of Hydrocodone also include liver damage, hearing loss (sensorineural). The adverse effects of hydrocodone are its effects on your personal life. Drug addiction can

  1. Spoil family relationships
  2. Problems related to mental health
  3. Difficulties with performance in job

These long term side effects can be avoided by not consuming the drug in excess amounts, avoiding alcohol consumption with hydrocodone, stop using drug unnecessarily, using hydrocodone with doctor’s prescription.

It is always better to avoid drug dependency and use drug exactly as directed by your physician.  Make sure you do not use the drug with other substances like alcohol that can lead to harmful and serious side effects. The drug can give you expected results when taken in right dosage for a short term.

Make sure you do not overdose and if you notice any symptoms that you feel are unusual, speak to your doctor immediately to avoid complications. Have faith in your doctor can help you use hydrocodone safely.

Hydrocodone over dosage problem can be treated

Taking this medicine as per your doctor’s prescription can be helpful. Do not use hydrocodone in excess amounts than recommended and do not use it for a longer time. Elderly patients should take care of the right dose as prescribed as they are quite sensitive to pain medications.

Dosing Information

Normal Adult dose – Chronic pain

For patients who are not tolerant to Opioid medications

(Zohydro(R)– extended-release – capsules

Initial dose : 10 mg to be taken orally after every twenty four hours.

(Hysingla(R)-extended-release – capsules

Initial dose: 20mg to be taken orally after every twenty four hours

Note: using higher doses of hydrocodone in patients who are not tolerant to opioid medications can lead to life threatening respiratory depression. The patient should be monitored closely in initial period of 24-72 hours.

Renal- Dose adjustments

ER capsules

Initial dose should be low, patients should be monitored closely for sedation and respiratory depression.

ER tablets

Low initial dose- one half the normal dose; patient should be monitored closely for sedation and respiratory depression.

Liver – Dose adjustments

ER capsules

Mild-moderate hepatic impairment – in this case no dose adjustment is required

Severe- hepatic impairment- 10 mg to be taken orally after every 12 hours, patient needs to be monitored closely for sedation and respiratory depression.

ER Tablets

Low initial dose, patient needs to be monitored for sedation and respiratory depression.

Administration advice

ER capsules

Swallow the extended release capsules as whole, do not chew, crush or dissolve

Take the capsules orally after every 24 hours

ER tablets

Take tablet one at a time with sufficient water to ensure the tablet is swallowed completely, do not lick, pre-soak or wet tablets before you place in your mouth.

If you miss a dose of hydrocodone , skip the missed dose if it is the time for your next dose. Do not take extra dose to make up for the missed dose.

Hydrocodone overdose treatment

A hydrocodone overdose needs emergency medical help. Doctors can use another drug called naloxone if breathing is quite slow and not deep. This method is used by doctor if they feel the overdose can lead to death. However, if your breathing is normal, doctors can use laxatives or activated charcoal to flush out residues of medications out of your stomach.

Drug treatment therapy or programs are recommended to help the patient overcome drug addiction or abuse.

Treatment for drug abuse or overdose solely depends on the type of medication used and how severe the abuse is.  Some of the following treatments included to treat drug overdose or abuse are

  1. Withdrawal through medication
  2. Detoxification if required
  3. Counseling
  4. Psychotherapy
  5. Support groups

Recovery treatments help you overcome addiction and the chances of survival from an overdose are high when you get right medical treatment before the breathing problems start. When breathing slows down the levels of oxygen in the body decreases thereby leading to brain damage, if there is delay in getting medical help.

Do not mix alcohol with medications as it can increase fatal complications.

Hydrocodone helps treating severe pain

Hydrocodone is a common opioid medication used to treat severe pain. Hydrocodone is also known as a narcotic. The generic name is hydrocodone and Brand name is Hysingla ER and Zohydro ER

The forms of hydrocodone

Hysingla ER and Zohydro ER – extended-release form which is used to treat severe pain. Extended release form of hydrocodone cannot be used as medicine which is used on as and when needed basis.

Some important information about hydrocodone

Hydrocodone can stop or slow your breathing. Avoid using this medication in excess amounts for a lengthy duration than recommended. Do not break, crush or open the extended release form of hydrocodone pill. Swallow the whole pill as it is to prevent any complication that can be fatal too. There are chances of hydrocodone drug dependency even if you are taking regular doses of hydrocodone. Do not share this medication with anyone, especially with a person having history of drug addiction or drug abuse. Store the medication in a place where it is not accessible to others.

Misuse of any narcotic medication can lead to overdose, death or addiction, especially in a person using the medication without doctor’s prescription or in a child.

Also let your doctor know if you are pregnant. Hydrocodone can lead to fatal withdrawal symptoms in an unborn child.

Avoid drinking alcohol as it can lead to dangerous and severe side effects when hydrocodone is combined with alcohol.

Avoid taking hydrocodone if you allergic to the medication or have

  1. Paralytic ileus- a bowel problem
  2. Breathing problems or severe asthma

Hydrocodone can be addictive and giving away or sharing this medicine is illegal.  Hydrocodone can lead to breathing problems in elderly people who are malnourished, ill or debilitated.

How to use hydrocodone?

You should follow the instructions given on prescription label. Hydrocodone can stop or slow your breathing whenever the dose is changed. Avoid using hydrocodone in excess amounts or for a long term. Consult your doctor if hydrocodone has stopped working in treating your pain.

The dose may differ for you if you have used opioid pain medicine similar to hydrocodone and if your body is used to the medicine.  Speak to your doctor to know if you are tolerant to opioid medication.

Do not stop using hydrocodone suddenly after using it for a long duration or you can experience unwanted withdrawal symptoms. Discuss with your doctor about how to prevent withdrawal symptoms when you stop using hydrocodone.

Store the medicine away from moisture, heat and light in a room temperature. Keep a track of hydrocodone medicine you have used from every new bottle of the medicine.

After using hydrocodone do not flush the unused tablet in the toilet as it is not recommended to flush the medicine to avoid dangers related to accidental overdose which can cause death. This advice is applicable to a small number of medications only.

Make sure you ask your doctor before starting the drug so that you can start with the right dose of hydrocodone and avoid complications which can even lead to death.

Drug Interactions that can affect the hydrocodone efficacy

Drug interactions can affect how the medication works for you. It can reduce the efficacy of a particular drug you are using. Before using any medication, speak to your doctor and let him know if you are using any other medications along with hydrocodone. The ingredients present in medications that you are using now, can completely change how hydrocodone works for you. On other hand the drug interactions can be severe and fatal too.

Let us learn about some drug interactions associated with hydrocodone

Pregabalin- Hydrocodone

Taking hydrocodone and pregabalin together can lead to side effects like drowsiness, dizziness, problems in concentrating and confusion. Elderly people also notice impairment in motor co-ordination, thinking and judgment. Avoid taking alcohol while you are on these medications. Also avoid engaging yourself in activities that need extra alertness like driving or operating heavy machinery.

lamotrigine– Hydrocodone

taking lamotrigine and Hydrocodone together can lead to increased drowsiness, dizziness, difficulty in concentrating and confusion. Elderly people may observe impairment in judgment, thinking and motor-co-ordination. Avoid consuming alcohol and engaging yourself in activities that require mental alertness like operating heavy machinery or driving.

CNS depressants

Using Zohydro ER with any other CNS depressants comprising of tranquilizers, sedatives, hypnotics, opioids, phenothiazines, and anesthetics can lead to problems like coma, profound sedation, respiratory depression or death. Patients receiving Zohydro ER and CNS depressants should be monitored for signs of sedation, hypotension and respiratory depression.

Mixed Antagonist/Agonist opioid analgesics

Mixed Antagonist/Agonist like butorphanol, nalbuphine, pentazocine and some portions of Agonist buprenorphine, analgesics can reduce the hydrocodone’s analgesic effect or trigger withdrawal symptoms.

MAO inhibitors

Zohydro ER is not meant to be used in patients who have used MAO inhibitors in past 14 days as this can lead to unexpected potentiation through use of MAO inhibitors with opioid analgesics. No particular interactions are reported with between MAO inhibitors and hydrocodone but  the use of opioid and other drugs is not recommended.


Anticholinergics or other medications when used parallel with opioid analgesics, can cause severe constipation(which can cause paralytic ileus) and urinary retention. Patients should be monitored carefully for signs of constipation and urinary retention. In addition they should also be monitored for central nervous system and respiratory depression in case  Zohydro and Anticholinergic medications are used together.

Do no take hydrocodone in excess amounts or for a long ter. Please check with your doctor if hydrocodone is suitable for you and your doctor is the right person to prescribe the right dose. Before taking hydrocodone let your doctor know if you have the following problems

  1. Lung disease or breathing problem
  2. Urination problems
  3. Kidney or liver disease
  4. Blockage in intestines or stomach
  5. Problems with pancreas, gallbladder or thyroid
  6. History of mental illness, addiction or drug abuse.
  7. History of seizure, brain tumor or head injury

Hydrocodone causes severe breathing problems in elderly people who are malnorusihed debilaiated or quite ill. It is better to speak to your doctor if you have any other medical condition too.

1 2 3