Pain Medications

One of the most common questions is about medications for pain. There are different medications for different types and levels of pain and there are limitations on using these medications, so it is usually best to ask about your current situation. As with any medication, you should check with your health care provider about the best medication and possible side effects based on drug interactions or her medical history.

Prescription Medications

  • Prescription medications such as sumatriptan (Imitrex) are other options for migraines instead of aspirin in pregnancy or breastfeeding.
  • Most opiates, such as morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone, can be used in pregnancy and breastfeeding, as prescribed for severe pain or surgeries under the care of the doctor treating the cause of the pain.
  • Codeine can be used with some cautions in breastfeeding: use not longer than 4 days and monitor the baby for sedation, limpness, and feeding difficulty. This is because a very few number of people have a genetic predisposition to metabolize (or convert) codeine which can build up in the baby and cause sedation.

For less severe pain, over-the-counter medications may be considered, depending on your trimester.

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) can be used for common types of pain (headache, fever, etc.) anytime in pregnancy and breastfeeding with no increased risks. Moms are encouraged to read the ingredients in medications since acetaminophen is found in some combination cold medications and some prescription pain medications. Getting a double dose of acetaminophen or taking too much can harm mom’s liver.
  • Low-dose aspirin (81 mg) can be used for certain heart conditions under a doctor’s care. Regular dose aspirin (325 mg) should not be used after the 20th week of pregnancy since it can affect the developing baby’s kidneys and fetal circulation. Regular dose aspirin should not be used in breastfeeding due to the theoretical risk of Reye’s syndrome. If mom has migraines, she should talk to her provider about prescription medication options.
  • Ibuprofen (Advil®) and naproxen (Aleve®) should not be used after the 20th week of pregnancy since they can also cause the same problems as aspirin. However, they can both be used while mom is breastfeeding.

Contacting MotherToBaby is the best way to receive accurate and updated information about exposures in pregnancy and breastfeeding.