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The Dangers of Prescription Painkillers During Pregnancy

Taking Tylenol® during pregnancy doesn’t alarm many of us, but what about a painkiller like OxyContin or an antidepressant? There seems to be a never-ending buzz about what medication is safe and how much is acceptable to take during pregnancy.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common painkillers and how taking them during pregnancy can harm your baby.


Know the Different Types

The following are common types of prescription drugs used when pregnant. Each has been graded by their level of potential harm determined by the American Pregnancy Association. Categories to be aware of are A, B, C, D and X, with X being the most harmful and A indicating no risk reported as of now.

  • Morphine: C Category: risk involved for the fetus.
  • Tylenol: C Category: risk involved for the fetus.
  • Xanax: D Category: positive evidence of fetal risk.
  • Valium: not to be used during pregnancy.
  • Ritalin: C Category: risk involved for the fetus.
  • OxyContin: B Category: no risks to report as of now. (Not enough research has been conducted.)

Keep in mind; each painkiller was reviewed based on average daily amounts, abusing any of the above drugs could have irreparable damage to a fetus.


Harmful Effects

Anything you ingest while pregnant can make its way inside the placenta and affect your baby—whether in a positive or negative way. In fact, the absorption of most prescription painkillers increases your chance of having a preterm birth or potential defects. Infant drug withdrawal after birth is another risk involved with those who take painkillers during pregnancy.

Not all painkillers will harm your baby. However, abusing any medication increases the risk.



If you deal with something like anxiety or depression, your healthcare provider may suggest you look at other options of treatment while pregnant. There are a variety of natural medicines that can work to your benefit. If you choose to remain on your current painkillers, your doctor will advise you take a specific dose. It’s important to adhere to their directions for your health and the health of your fetus.


What Now?

Have an honest conversation with your doctor. If you are currently on prescription painkillers be honest about the amount and frequency, so your doctor can guide you through a safe pregnancy. If you’re abusing painkillers, remember: you’re putting your child at risk for a myriad of health complications. Be kind to your body and your baby by talking to your doctor today to be better informed.

Need to talk to an OB/GYN about potential risks involved with medicine and your pregnancy? We’re here to help. Contact Carrie Snyder, Women's Health Nurse Navigator, at (844) 316-3330, email [email protected], or click here to visit the Women’s Health Resource Center.