According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the popular opioid pain reliever Vicodin has been linked to a number of severe birth defects in babies born to mothers who take the drug during pregnancy. Congenital abnormalities associated with Vicodin use include heart defects, hydrocephaly (water on the brain), glaucoma and gastroschisis (a herniation of the intestines through the abdominal wall). The risk for these defects is greatest when Vicodin is consumed during the first trimester of pregnancy, a time when many women may still be unaware they are pregnant.
First approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 1983, Vicodin is a popular narcotic prescription medication that combines hydrocodone and acetaminophen to relieve severe pain. The drug has essentially the same chemical structure as morphine, and is available in tablet and liquid forms for oral usage. Vicodin is typically prescribed for different types of mild to moderate pain from injury, surgery, or dental work.
Vicodin Birth Defects
On February 29, 2012, the CDC warned that consumption of Vicodin and other similar opioid pain relievers during or just before pregnancy has been linked to a number of severe birth defects. Congenital abnormalities associated with Vicodin include:
- Heart Defects
- Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS)
- Ventricular Septal Defects (VSDs)
- Atrial Septal Defects (ASDs)
- Tetralogy of Fallot (ToF)
- Right Ventricular Outflow Tract Obstructions (RVOTOs)
- Pulmonary Valve Stenosis
- Gastroschisis (herniation of the abdominal wall)
- Spina Bifida
In addition to Vicodin, the CDC’s warning extends to such prescription painkillers as OxyContin and Tylenol-3, as well as a variety of generic versions of the drugs. The study that prompted the warning was conducted by the department’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. The research will be published in an upcoming edition of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Vicodin & Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome
Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) is a congenital birth defect that involves a combination of several abnormalities of the heart and great blood vessels. In HLHS, most of the structures on the left side of the heart are abnormally small because they fail to fully develop. The degree of underdevelopment varies from child to child, but the structures affected usually include the mitral valve, left ventricle, aortic valve, and aorta. The new study found that Vicodin use during pregnancy doubles the risk of having an infant born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Signs and symptoms of the condition may include:
- bluish (cyanosis) or poor skin color
- cold hands and feet (extremities)
- poor pulse
- poor suckling and feeding
- pounding heart
- rapid breathing
- shortness of breath
Vicodin & Spina Bifida
Spina bifida is a rare congenital neural tube defect characterized by the failure of the backbone and spinal cord to close before birth. The term spina bifida comes from Latin and literally means “split” or “open” spine. The condition typically occurs in the first trimester of pregnancy, when the two sides of the embryo’s spine fail to join together. Signs and symptoms of Vicodin-induced spina bifida may include:
- an abnormal tuft of hair
- a collection of fat
- a small dimple or birthmark
- skin discoloration
Vicodin & Pregnancy
The FDA currently classifies Vicodin in Pregnancy Category C, which means that it may have the potential to cause breathing problems or addiction/withdrawal symptoms in a newborn. Consult your physician immediately if you become pregnant while taking Vicodin. Additionally, Vicodin has been found to have the ability to pass into breast milk, and may harm a nursing baby. Do not take Vicodin if you are breastfeeding without first talking to your doctor.