Prescription Drugs and Pregnancy

When you become pregnant, changes must be made in your lifestyle for the health of your baby. If dependence or abuse of prescription drugs has become part of your life, it is important that you seek help. Abusing prescription drugs can not only be harmful to you, but also to your baby.

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs:

Opioids: These drugs are prescribed to treat pain and are sometimes used as a pre-anesthetic sedative. Common names include morphine, codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), meperidine (Demerol) and oxycodone (OxyContin).

CNS Depressants: These drugs are prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. CNS depressants are divided into two categories, barbiturates and benzodiazepines. Common prescription names include mephobarbital (Mebaral), pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal), alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and chlordiazepoxide HCI (Librium).

Stimulants: These drugs are prescribed to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Common prescription names include dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine) and methylphenidate (Ritalin).

Popular Drugs That Can Be Harmful to Your Baby:

  • Morphine and Demerol is labeled Category C for safety in pregnancy; it is used to relieve severe to moderate pain.
  • Tylenol with Codeine is labeled Category C for safety in pregnancy; it is usually used for mild to moderately severe pain.
  • Xanax is labeled Category D for safety in pregnancy; it is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders.
  • Valium is labeled not for use in pregnancy; it is used to treat anxiety disorders and alcohol withdrawal.
  • Ritalin is labeled Category C for safety in pregnancy; it is used to treat attention-deficit hyperactive disorder.
  • Oxycontin is labeled Category B for safety in pregnancy; it is used to relieve moderate to severe pain for an extended amount of time.

It is important that you inform your health care provider of any drugs that you are taking.

How would I know if I am abusing prescription drugs?

  • You consume larger doses than prescribed
  • You use it more frequently than prescribed
  • You take the medication for reasons other than what it was prescribed for

What should I do if I am pregnant and abusing prescription drugs?

The hardest part is admitting that there is a problem. When you become pregnant your lifestyle habits will have to change for the protection of you and your baby during this special time.

When you attend your first prenatal visit, your health care provider will ask you a series of questions about your lifestyle. He/she will ask if you smoke, drink and/or are taking any prescription drugs. You should be open and honest with your health care provider.

If you find it difficult to stop taking your medications, you need to seek help. Call the National Alcohol & Drug Dependence Hopeline at 1-800-NCA-CALL (622-2255) for help.

Last Updated: 09/2008

Compiled using information from the following sources:

National Institute on Drug Abuse, http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/PainMed.html

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, http://www.fda.gov/

American Pregnancy Association, http://www.americanpregnancy.org

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