Date: May 2022, Version 3

What is it?

Oxycodone is a painkiller used to treat moderate or severe pain, including pain after an operation.


What are the benefits of taking oxycodone in pregnancy?

Oxycodone is a strong painkiller and sometimes works where other painkillers have not.

Pregnant women who take oxycodone should contact their GP or pain specialist as soon as possible. Their doctor will review whether oxycodone is still needed and ensure that the dose is correct. Pregnant women should not stop taking oxycodone or change the dose without speaking to a health care professional.


Are there any risks of taking oxycodone during pregnancy?

Studies of small numbers of women using oxycodone in early pregnancy do not show that it can cause miscarriage or birth defects in the baby. However, further research is ideally required to confirm this.

One large study found that oxycodone use in pregnancy was not linked to stillbirth or reduced growth of the baby in the womb. Around one in every 10 babies in this study who were exposed to oxycodone were born preterm (before 37 weeks), compared to around one in every 14 unexposed babies. However, it is unclear whether this is a direct effect of oxycodone or may be due to the underlying health conditions it is used to treat, increasing the chance of preterm labour or the need for induced early delivery.

Oxycodone used around the time of delivery can affect the baby after birth. The baby may be ‘jittery’, have feeding problems, and initially need some help with breathing. These problems usually settle within the first few days.


Are there any alternatives to taking oxycodone?

Possibly. Other medicines can be used to treat pain in pregnancy. However, if a doctor has offered oxycodone this will be based on several factors, including which painkillers have already been tried, the likelihood of a medical condition not being as well-controlled with another painkiller, and possible side effects if the medicine is changed. Women who have any questions about a medicine that they are offered in pregnancy should speak to their doctor or midwife.

No treatment

What if I prefer not to take medicines during pregnancy?

Severe pain can greatly affect quality of life. It can cause difficulty sleeping and mental health problems. Doctors may suggest taking tramadol in pregnancy if they think that the benefits of controlling the woman’s pain outweigh any possible risks to the baby.

Will my baby need extra monitoring during pregnancy or after delivery?

Most women will be offered a scan at around 20 weeks of pregnancy to look for birth defects as part of their routine antenatal care. Using oxycodone in pregnancy is not expected to cause problems that would require extra monitoring of your baby during pregnancy. However, women with some of the underlying conditions that oxycodone can be used to treat might be more closely monitored to ensure that their baby is growing and developing as expected. Women who use oxycodone recreationally might also receive extra monitoring.

Babies born to women who have taken oxycodone in late pregnancy might be closely monitored after birth to ensure that they are not experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Are there any risks to my baby if the father has taken oxycodone?

We would not expect any increased risk to your baby if the father takes oxycodone.

Who can I talk to if I have questions?

If you have any questions regarding the information in this leaflet please discuss them with your health care provider. They can access more detailed medical and scientific information from www.uktis.org.

How can I help to improve drug safety information for pregnant women in the future?

Our online reporting system (MyBump Portal) allows women who are currently pregnant to create a secure record of their pregnancy, collected through a series of questionnaires. You will be asked to enter information about your health, whether or not you take any medicines, your pregnancy outcome and your child's development. You can update your details at any time during pregnancy or afterwards. This information will help us better understand how medicines affect the health of pregnant women and their babies. Please visit the MyBump Portal to register.

General information
Sadly, miscarriage and birth defects can occur in any pregnancy.

Miscarriage occurs in about 1 in every 5 pregnancies, and 1 in every 40 babies are born with a birth defect. This is called the ‘background risk’ and happens whether medication is taken or not.

Most medicines cross the placenta and reach the baby. For many medications this is not a problem. However, some medicines can affect a baby’s growth and development.

If you take regular medication and are planning to conceive, you should discuss whether your medicine is safe to continue with your doctor/health care team before becoming pregnant. If you have an unplanned pregnancy while taking a medicine, you should tell your doctor as soon as possible.

If a new medicine is suggested for you during pregnancy, please make sure that the person prescribing it knows that you are pregnant. If you have any concerns about a medicine, you can check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist.

Our Bumps information leaflets provide information about the effects of medicines in pregnancy so that you can decide, together with your healthcare provider, what is best for you and your baby.