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Is It Safe to Use Morphine During Pregnancy?


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Pregnancy can be a beautiful experience, but it comes with its own challenges. As your body goes through various changes, you may feel pains and aches even after doing normal routine tasks.

While some women can tolerate the pain, for others, it can be unbearable and interfere with their day-to-day life. In order to manage the pain, many pregnant women take opioids like morphine.

However, there are several factors one should consider when using morphine during pregnancy. These include the risks of addiction and the likelihood of withdrawal symptoms. 

So, is morphine safe during pregnancy? Well, it is not really safe to use morphine during pregnancy. The best way to reduce the risk is to use this medicine in the smallest dosage possible. It is also advisable to discuss the risks ,before starting the medication, with your healthcare provider before using any type of opioid during pregnancy.

In this article, we are going to discuss whether it is safe to use morphine during pregnancy

What Is Morphine?

Morphine is a pain medication. It is an opioid that is used to treat severe pain. This drug works in your brain to change the way your body reacts to pain.

Morphine is naturally found in opium. A healthcare provider can prescribe morphine for pain relief, but this medicine comes with certain risks. The dangers include addiction, misuse, and risk of overdose. 

Whether you’re seeking pain relief or simply want to feel better, morphine can help you in a variety of ways. The drug has a high euphoric effect, which draws users to higher doses. 

However, as with any prescription pain killer, morphine has its side effects and can lead to addiction. Overuse of morphine can be dangerous and lead to a life-threatening situation.

You should consult a doctor if you notice any of these symptoms. Moreover, you should avoid abruptly stopping the medication without consulting a doctor.

Is Morphine Safe During Pregnancy?

Although it is possible for women to use morphine during pregnancy, experts do not believe it is safe for fetuses. The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, classifies morphine during pregnancy as a category C substance. 

This classification means that there is insufficient research to determine the safety of morphine in the womb. In fact, the FDA recommends that women should not use morphine during pregnancy.

While short-term use of morphine is not known to affect the baby, it can pass through breast milk and could cause problems in the development of the baby. If you are considering breastfeeding, discuss your concerns with a healthcare provider. 

Long-term use of morphine can be dangerous. There are several risks, including a higher risk of birth defects and mental health problems. The use of opioids during pregnancy is common. It is estimated that one in five pregnant women use them for managing pain. 

Research suggests that women taking opioids while pregnant are at an increased risk for birth defects. Additionally, opioid dependence can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms even in the newborn. It is recommended that women who plan to use morphine during pregnancy should consider non-opioid pain relievers to avoid the risks.

Can You Take Morphine If You Are Pregnant?

While morphine has been marketed as a safe, effective pain reliever, it should not be used during pregnancy. This opioid crosses the placenta, putting the baby at risk for birth defects. However, there are several other pain relievers that are safe to use during pregnancy.

One of the biggest risks of morphine is that it can affect the menstrual cycle of a woman. Therefore, it is a good idea to discuss this possibility with your doctor. 

Another major risk of morphine is the development of physical dependence and tolerance. This means that the body starts to rely on the drug to function properly and requires higher doses for the same level of relief. 

This can result in a variety of side effects, including nausea and drowsiness. This can also lead to anxiety and suicidal thoughts. For these reasons, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about how morphine will affect you and whether or not you should take it during pregnancy.

As a general rule, opioids are not recommended for use during pregnancy, as they can cause serious risks to the unborn child. Women should also discuss their options with a healthcare provider, as they may have alternatives for opioids.

Why Do People Take Morphine?

Physiologically, morphine affects the reward system in the brain. When it binds to receptors in this part of the brain, it produces dopamine. Dopamine is the brain chemical that promotes euphoria, and morphine increases dopamine levels in these receptors. This causes a cycle of positive reinforcement, leading to repeated use of the drug.

Morphine is a pain medication, and most people take it to manage their pain and feel better. If you are suffering from chronic pain, morphine can help you. It is a powerful analgesic that doctors can prescribe to people suffering from chronic pain. It can be prescribed as an oral or liquid medication as well as an intravenous or muscular injection. 

When used intravenously, morphine can help to relieve labour and delivery pain in just 2 minutes. In 15 minutes, the medicine reaches its peak and can stay effective for up to 4 hours. It can be used to treat all the following problems:

  • Chronic pain
  • Labour and delivery pain
  • Opioid dependency
  • Chronic cough
  • Diarrhoea
  • Breathlessness
  • Sores or ulcers on mucous membranes

How Do Pregnant Women Manage Pain During Pregnancy?

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to manage pain and discomfort in pregnancy. Most common remedies can be effective, although alternative therapies can also be helpful. For example, a woman suffering from abdominal cramps can take a warm shower to relax her body and relieve some of her discomforts. 

Whether you choose to use medication or other methods, you should discuss them with your doctor. You should ask about the efficacy of specific pain medications and when you should not use them. In addition, you should also let your doctor know if there are any other pain management methods that you prefer. 

Pregnancy-related pain can be relieved by taking analgesics. These medications relax the muscles and ease pain, but they may have negative side effects. Women who would rather avoid pain medication can take nitrous oxide, also called laughing gas. This form of analgesia is a safe alternative to an epidural and is usually prescribed for women who are too far along to receive it.

Physical therapy can be helpful in relieving pain during pregnancy. This can include walking, swimming, or other gentle activities. A physical therapist can also show women stretches and exercises to relieve back pain. For example, stretching the lower back involves lying on hands and knees, pulling in the stomach, and rounding and flattening the back.

However, most pregnant women depend on medication to relieve pain. Here are some common medicines pregnant women use,

  • 6% of women use opioids 
  • 18 to 25% of women use ibuprofen
  • 65 to 70% of women use acetaminophen

What Are the Risks of Taking Morphine While Pregnant?

Using morphine while pregnant can be dangerous for a pregnant woman’s unborn baby. The drug can enter the breast milk and cause problems for the baby. It is best to speak to your healthcare provider to learn more about the risks of morphine while you are pregnant. Here are some risks and side effects of taking morphine while pregnant.

  • Drowsiness
  • Breathing Difficulty
  • Sedation
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Preeclampsia
  • Constipation
  • Problems with the Placenta
  • Stillbirth
  • Miscarriage
  • Premature Delivery

Risks to the Baby when Exposed to Morphine during Pregnancy

While the long-term effects of opioid use during pregnancy are not yet clear, experts are concerned about the risk to the unborn child. Although not all babies affected by opioids will develop symptoms, those who are exposed to the drugs are at greater risk of developing speech, language, and developmental delays.

Newborns exposed to opioids in the womb may experience a constellation of withdrawal symptoms. This condition is known as neonatal abstinence syndrome. The newborn may experience seizures and multiple medical complications. 

The risks of exposure to opioid analgesics to the unborn baby have been studied extensively in several observational studies. In some studies, the use of opioids during the first trimester was linked with an increased risk of preterm birth or stillbirth. However, these associations were small. Here are some of the most common problems observed in babies born to women who use opioids like morphine.

  • Cleft lip and cleft palate
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Clubfoot
  • Drug dependency
  • Glaucoma
  • Gastroschisis
  • Growth delays and low birth weight
  • Hearing loss
  • Neural tube defects
  • Microcephaly
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Prematurity

What Is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?

NAS is thought to be a result of substance use during pregnancy. The substances pass through the placenta and into the baby’s bloodstream. Once the baby stops receiving the substances from the mother, they experience withdrawal symptoms. 

Babies exposed to alcohol, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and certain antidepressants may experience NAS. In addition, babies exposed to opioids or other addictive substances may experience complications and require long-term treatment.

Newborns who experience neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) experience a range of symptoms that resemble drug withdrawal symptoms experienced by adults. The symptoms can begin as early as 24 hours after birth and can last up to ten days. Symptoms can be mild or severe. 

Treatment for neonatal abstinence syndrome depends on a baby’s abstinence score and general health. If symptoms are severe, an infant may require hospitalization. In this case, pharmacotherapy may be prescribed. 

Treatment for NAS also varies depending on the drug, the mother’s condition, and the baby’s age. Some newborns may require intravenous fluids and nutrients to help them recover from the condition. A neonate with NAS may also be able to benefit from skin-to-skin care, swaddling, and breastfeeding.


  • Can You Nurse Your Newborn If You Are Taking Morphine?

If you have used morphine to manage delivery pain, it is safe to breastfeed your newborn. However, if you have been using the drug for a long-time, it is not safe for you to breastfeed your baby. During breastfeeding, morphine can enter the breast milk and can lead to side effects in the newborn. 

  • What’s the Outlook for Babies Exposed to Morphine during Pregnancy?

Babies exposed to morphine during pregnancy can develop many complications, including low birth weight and a variety of neurological conditions. These include neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) and other congenital health defects

  • What Is the Best Alternative for Morphine during Pregnancy?

If you don’t want to risk your pregnancy or baby, it is best to avoid morphine. Instead, you can use other safe and effective pain medication like acetaminophen, i.e. paracetamol


If a pregnant woman is suffering from a painful condition or injury, she should consult her obstetrician about the use of opioids. Morphine during pregnancy may cause birth defects, neonatal respiratory depression, and neonatal abstinence syndrome. Opioids should not be used during pregnancy unless there are no other options available to treat the pain. While morphine is often prescribed by healthcare professionals to treat severe pain, it carries risks of addiction and overdose to the mother as well as associated birth defects in the developing baby. Luckily, there are other painkillers that are safe for use during pregnancy. 

Somapika Dutta (B.Sc Physiology, Honours)
Somapikar holds Bachelors Degree in Physiology from University of Culcutta. She has 6+ years of experience writing in different niches, including health, tech and lifestyle. An animal enthusiast and a raging foodie, experiencing life - one day at a time.


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