Can I Take Tylenol With Codeine During Pregnancy?


Tylenol with codeine, a Schedule III controlled substance, should be taken with extreme caution during pregnancy. It should only be prescribed to pregnant women when the benefits of taking the drug justify the potential risks to the fetus. There are no adequate studies in pregnant women for use of this medication. The risks and benefits should be discussed in detail with the physician.

Tylenol with Codeine

  • Tylenol with codeine is a narcotic analgesic and anti-tussive. It is an oral administration usually in the form of tablets but there is a liquid form available. It is used for the relief of mild to moderately severe pain. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has categorized it as a Schedule III controlled substance and a Pregnancy Category C which means there are no adequate human or animal studies or there have been adverse fetal effects in animal studies but no human data is available. It is available only by prescription. Each tablet contains acetaminophen and codeine. The adult dosage is 15 mg to 60 mg of codeine along with the 300 mg to 1,000 mg of acetaminophen every four hours. The maximum dose for a 24-hour period is 360 mg of codeine and 4,000 mg of acetaminophen. The codeine can be habit forming and produce drug dependency. It has the potential for abuse and should be taken according to the physician's instructions.

Side Effects

  • Tylenol with codeine can produce a number of side effects even when taken as prescribed. The common side effects include but are not limited to drowsiness, dizziness, a sedation-like effect, shortness of breath, lightheadedness and nausea and vomiting. Less common side effects of the medication can include an allergic reaction, itching, dysphoria, euphoria, constipation, abdominal pain, pruritus, rash, thrombocytopenia and agranulocytosis. It is recommended to try and eat a small meal with your dosage to try and avoid some of the potential side effects. There are also drug interactions associated with Tylenol with codeine. It has been shown to enhance effects or react with other narcotic and analgesics, alcohol, general anesthetics, tranquilizers or other central nervous system depressants.

Pregnancy Issues

  • Tylenol with codeine is essentially safe for the mother when taken as prescribed. The concerns for taking it during pregnancy are the effects it may have on the fetus and newborn. Tylenol with codeine rapidly crosses the placenta. The acetaminophen in the medication has been shown to be safe in pregnant women when taken properly. The caution is the codeine in the drug. Codeine has been shown to produce physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms in the infant. The withdrawal symptoms in newborns can include irritability, tremors, excessive crying, hyperreflexia, fever, vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms usually appear within the first few days of life. The severity of the withdrawal would be based on the length of time the medication was used during pregnancy, the time frame of when the medication was used--first, second or third trimester--and the dosage. Long-term exposure during pregnancy does have the potential to cause Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome in the newborn. Codeine is classified under this condition as an opiate. This condition produces side effects that are severe enough in the infants to require treatment in the hospital before the infant is able to be released. The treatment can last for several weeks to several months, depending on the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. Treatment for codeine withdrawal in the newborn is used by giving the infant doses of methadone to treat the symptoms and then weaning the infant off the methadone as the symptoms subside. Physicians do prescribe this medication to pregnant women. It is only to be taken as prescribed and in the exact dosage that the physician prescribes. There are no adequate studies in pregnant women on this medication and it should only be used if the benefits of taking the drug justify the potential risks to the fetus and or newborn.


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