When a woman is taking opiate medications and learns she’s pregnant, her first concern is for the health of her unborn baby. Of course, she must also think of her personal well-being. However, if she is taking opiates to control chronic pain, there are alternatives to be considered.
Opiates are the most widely prescribed drugs on the legal market today. For that reason, it’s not a rare occurrence that a pregnant woman will have to make a choice about whether to continue using the medication. To make an informed decision about continuing opiates, the following information might prove useful to you.
Because of the potential harm to unborn babies, the FDA has classified prescription medications into categories according to the
Is It Dangerous to Take Opiate Medications During Pregnancy?
The biggest danger of taking opiates during pregnancy is the risk of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). This occurs when an infant experiences withdrawal symptoms shortly after birth. These babies also suffer low birth-weight, difficulty feeding, seizures and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Prescribing opiates to a pregnant woman is not to be taken lightly as a pregnant woman metabolizes medications differently than a non-pregnant female. A physician must carefully weigh the risks and benefits and closely monitor the patient throughout the pregnancy if opiates are prescribed. It is important to note that there is a risk of miscarriage when opiates are taken during pregnancy.
As mentioned above, there are alternative pain management techniques that don’t involve dangerous drugs. For example, a pregnant woman has options such as chiropractic treatments, massage therapy, exercise, yoga, water therapy, acupuncture, hot or cold compresses, and diet changes.
Treating Pregnant Opiate Addicts
When an opiate addict becomes pregnant the most common method of treatment is a medically supervised methadone maintenance program. Currently, methadone is the only medically approved medication for treating heroin or opiate addicts who are pregnant. One of the benefits of methadone is that it is a stable opiate. In other words, it keeps blood serum levels at constant levels during the day. In this way, the stable serum level protects the fetus from experiencing withdrawals.
Women who are breastfeeding an infant while on methadone maintenance should not decrease the dosage without consulting their physician. In most cases, methadone levels in the breast milk peak within two to four hours after taking a dose. For this reason, women are advised to schedule breastfeeding sessions accordingly.
Opiates and Their Link to Birth Defects
In the United States, there has been a sharp increase in the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed in recent years. This increase has been associated with a rise in the number of infants born with NAS or Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. The CDC conducted a study entitled “Maternal Treatment with Opioid Analgesics and Risk for Birth Defects.” Some of the findings of that study are as follows:
- Birth defects linked to opioid analgesics:
- Gastroschisis (a defect in the abdominal wall)
- Hydrocephaly (fluid in the brain)
- Spina Bifida
- Congenital heart defects
- More than 2% of mothers surveyed had been treated with opiates during early pregnancy.
- Hydrocodone and codeine represent more than 69% of reported opioids prescribed to pregnant women.
- Most women using opioids during pregnancy do so after surgical procedures, chronic disease, injuries, or infections.
All in all, taking opiate medications during pregnancy is potentially dangerous to the unborn child. If you would like more information regarding this subject, please call our toll-free number today. If you are seeking treatment for opiate addiction, our representatives will be happy to help you choose a program that is best suited for your needs.