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Opioid Use During Pregnancy

Opioid Use During Pregnancy

Many women who use opioids, whether prescription medication or illicit street drugs, find themselves pregnant amid their misuse or addiction. It can be a scary time, mainly because most medical research has shown that abruptly stopping the use of opioids during pregnancy can cause severe problems to both the mother and child. However, fetal exposure to opioids without monitored treatment from a medical provider can also have devastating consequences. Providing services to women who need prenatal care while using opioids is essential to both mothers and babies.

Untreated opioid use disorder during pregnancy can cause:

  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome

  • Low birthweight

  • Premature labor

  • Fetal death

  • Risk of infection

  • Malnutrition

  • Stunted growth

Prescription Opioid Use

Mothers with prescription opioids for acute or chronic pain should immediately speak to their medical provider upon discovering they’re pregnant. They will need to discuss the risks and benefits of using the medication throughout their pregnancy but are advised not to stop taking their medicines until this conversation occurs. If the medicine is suddenly stopped, the body can go into withdrawal, creating an unstable and unhealthy environment for the fetus and mother, potentially causing a miscarriage or fetal death.

Illicit Opioid Use

Expectant mothers who regularly misuse opioids and have suspected opioid use disorder are urged to seek prenatal medication-assisted treatment services. It’s considered to be the best practice for pregnant women to maintain the health of both the mother and baby. Under medical supervision, a pregnant woman can receive buprenorphine to reduce the risk of complications while also allowing the expectant mother to focus on bettering her health to prepare for delivery and post-natal recovery.

Benefits of Treatment for Mother and Baby

Compared to untreated pregnant women, those with opioid use disorder treated with buprenorphine had lower risks of NAS or experienced less severe NAS. Neonatal abstinence syndrome occurs when an infant becomes dependent on opioids during gestation through the mother. After birth, the baby can experience withdrawal symptoms similar to adults causing tremors, fever, diarrhea, and more.

MAT with methadone can help stabilize fetal opioid levels, helping reduce repeated prenatal withdrawal. Mothers in treatment are also less likely to become infected with infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, and more which can all be transmitted to the unborn baby. Overall, pregnant mothers who receive treatment for opioid use disorder find that their treatment time is also shorter after they’ve given birth and that their long-term health, as well as the baby’s, is significantly improved.

Due to the stigma surrounding opioid use disorder, many pregnant women face barriers to treatment. Those who may misuse opioids are often afraid to report these issues with their medical provider, especially in eighteen states where these situations could be classified as child abuse. Women in these situations could also face involuntary hospitalization, which discourages them from getting the help they need.

At Recovery Services of New Mexico, we are eager to provide expectant mothers with the treatment they need for opioid misuse or opioid use disorder. If you have any questions about pregnancy and methadone, our compassionate and knowledgeable staff is ready to take your call, so contact us today.


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