Codeine not safe for all breastfeeding moms and their babies

Aug 20, 2008

Using pain treatments which contain codeine may be risky for some breastfeeding mothers, according to researchers at The University of Western Ontario, and the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto. Lead author Dr. Gideon Koren published research in the journal, Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics which suggests that the codeine used in some pain relief drugs can actually have harmful and even fatal results for infants when ingested by some breastfeeding mothers.

"With nearly half of all infants in North America being delivered by caesarean section or after episiotomy, there is clearly a requirement for pain relief for mothers," says Koren. "However, our study confirms that codeine as a treatment for pain may be unsuitable and cannot be considered safe for all breastfed infants."

Koren holds the Ivey Chair in Molecular Toxicology at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at The University of Western Ontario, and is a professor of pediatrics at both Western and the University of Toronto. He is also a senior scientist in the Child Health Evaluative Sciences program at SickKids Research Institute, and director of The Motherisk Program.

Codeine is commonly used for pain relief and is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics as being compatible with breastfeeding. Following numerous reports through the Motherisk counseling service and the tragic death of an infant who died from an overdose of morphine acquired from breast milk, Koren and his team, located at SickKids and The University of Western Ontario, investigated these negative reactions.

Codeine is a 'prodrug' which means that on its own it is relatively inactive. The pain relieving attributes are only activated when it is metabolized, or transformed by the body into a more active pain relieving compound, morphine. Some individuals have a genetic variance which causes them to metabolize codeine at a rapid rate, producing significantly more morphine in their system than most of the population. While this genetic predisposition is rare, women who possess it and who take codeine for pain while breastfeeding can end up exposing their babies to high levels of morphine through their breast milk. This can cause babies to experience central nervous system depression as a result.

"The good news is that those breastfeeding children who were exposed to these high levels of morphine showed dramatic improvement once they were taken off the morphine tainted breast milk," says Koren. "By removing the exposure, most children will demonstrate a complete reversal of symptoms and show no long-term adverse effects."

Source: University of Western Ontario

Explore further: Oil-swishing craze: Snake oil or all-purpose remedy?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

7 hours ago

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

7 hours ago

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

7 hours ago

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

20 hours ago

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

20 hours ago

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Recommended for you

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

5 minutes ago

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

5 minutes ago

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

35 minutes ago

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Low tolerance for pain? The reason may be in your genes

Researchers may have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual ...

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.