Safety of Lidocaine Use during Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

A physician discussing the use of lidocaine during pregnancy
A physician discussing the use of lidocaine during pregnancy
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During pregnancy, it is essential for a physician to double-check the suitability of every medication before prescribing it to a patient. After all, due to the fetotoxicity of a drug substance, an infant can develop serious health issues which could also prove to be fatal. However, not all medications are unsafe for pregnant women. Some are, in fact, safe to use and are therefore frequently prescribed. One such drug is lidocaine. Let us explore the relationship between lidocaine and pregnancy and evaluate the drug in terms of its usefulness during as well as at the end of the gestation period.

A physician discussing the use of lidocaine during pregnancy

A physician discussing the dosing regimen of lidocaine with a pregnant subject

What is lidocaine?

Lidocaine is an FDA-approved local anesthetic as well as an antiarrhythmic drug, employed topically or injected intravenously, which is extensively used in minor dental as well as surgical procedures. The drug is marketed under the brand names Lidoderm, Xylocaine, AnaMantle, and Emla.

Clinical applications of lidocaine

Lidocaine is being used in the following clinical conditions:

  • Lidocaine finds application as a local anesthetic employed to cause numbness of the skin during procedures such as sigmoidoscopy, removal of ingrown toenails, etc.
  • Topically, lidocaine-incorporated creams are used to stop the itching sensation on the skin. It is also useful to treat pain caused due to minor burns, eczema, hemorrhoids, insect bites, or scrapes.
  • Lidocaine is also utilized to manage conditions related to genital or anal areas in order to relieve itching and discomfort.
Lidocaine incorporated creams

Lidocaine incorporated creams

Use of lidocaine during pregnancy

Lidocaine, due to being considered safe for use in pregnant women, has been widely administered. It falls into the FDA pregnancy category B which means ‘no proven risk in humans’. However, if its concentration exceeds the normal dose, infants born to these mothers have been noticed to show side effects owing to the fact that the drug has an easy crossing through the placental barrier. The drug is used in the following cases in pregnant women:

  • Buccal use

According to the data published by the National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center, it is safe to use lidocaine in pregnant women who are in their third trimester with a simple precaution i.e. the exposure to lidocaine should not exceed a duration of 3 hours.

  • Topical use

Although topical use of lidocaine in pregnant subjects has not been studied, it has been established from animal models that the drug does not pose any serious health risk. However, there is a need to conduct studies to confirm these claims.

  • Intravenous use

Lidocaine IV solution is administered to the patients to treat the abnormal rhythmic activity of the heart. It is generally considered safe to inject an IV solution of lidocaine into a pregnant patient. It should be made sure that the drug solution does not have any additional ingredients in it such as salicylates i.e. choline salicylate which could cause harm.

An injection along with a vial

An injection along with a vial

  • Epidural use

Lidocaine, in 1% concentration, is used as lumbar epidural analgesia. Due to its use, stages of labor are not prolonged. Moreover, the chances of cesarean or vacuum-assisted delivery are not elevated.

Potential side effects of lidocaine

Lidocaine can cause the following side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Unusual thirst
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Redness, blisters, and rashes after topical application
  • Blurred vision
  • Low blood pressure
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Slurred speech

Warning: In case of any of the above-mentioned side effects after lidocaine use, one should immediately contact their healthcare provider for further advice.

FAQs about Lidocaine and pregnancy

If utilizing lidocaine during pregnancy is a concern for you, in this section you’ll find answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding the safety of using lidocaine during pregnancy:

Does lidocaine affect the infant when used at the time of delivery?

Based on the findings of some case reports, it has been noticed that lidocaine, when administered to mothers at the time of delivery, causes some side effects in their infants. These include dilated pupils, difficulty in breathing, low muscle tone, or, in the worst case, seizures. Although these effects do not pose major health risks, it is safe to say that lidocaine can be used at delivery time.

Can lidocaine increase the risk of birth defects?

No. According to the published literature, infants born to mothers who were given lidocaine during their pregnancy do not have a higher-than-usual risk of having birth defects. Similar findings have been obtained when lidocaine was administered to animal models followed by an evaluation based on its effects on the offspring.

Does lidocaine have an effect on fertility?

No, lidocaine does not affect fertility, in both female and male subjects, neither does it enhance the chances of miscarriage.

Is it safe to breastfeed while being on lidocaine?

Yes. Despite the well-known fact that lidocaine can seep into the infant’s body through the mother’s milk, no side effects have been observed owing to the poor drug absorption in the babies. It is still preferable to discuss with your healthcare provider before taking lidocaine if you are breastfeeding.


Pregnancy is a state in which special focus is given to what is being administered to the mother when it comes to drugs. Lidocaine is a synthetic drug that is commonly used for minor health issues as well as a local anesthetic. Reported data by health organizations have indicated that the drug is safe to be used in pregnant women, as it does not cause any significant side effects in infants.

Moreover, lidocaine has also been found to be ineffective on a patient’s fertility, miscarriage rates, and incidences of birth defects, which further strengthens its position on the safety spectrum. In summary, lidocaine is totally safe when used in accordance with the advice of your healthcare provider.