Is opiate withdrawal during pregnancy a good idea or can it have adverse effects?
Fortunately, upon learning that they are pregnant, many women immediately stop smoking, drinking, or doing drugs because they want to protect their unborn child. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Therefore, for those women who are abusing opiates when they become pregnant, it is highly recommended that they seek professional medical assistance when attempting to discontinue use of the drug. The main reason medical monitoring is advised has to do with the fact that self-monitored detox is usually not effective and a relapse could cause adverse effects on the fetus.
Effects of Opiate Withdrawal During Pregnancy
Tapering off of opiates during pregnancy does not have any noticeable adverse effects on the fetus. However, in some cases, miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, and meconium passage have been documented. All in all, the miscarriage rates are higher for women when withdrawing from opiates during their first trimester.
When a pregnant woman ingests opiates, the drug affects the fetus’ body in much the same way as it does the mother’s body. For this reason, many infants are born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). In other words, the baby experiences withdrawal symptoms soon after birth. Several criteria determine how severe NAS will be for the infant. For instance:
- how much of the drug the mother was taking
- the type of drug being used
- how the mother’s body metabolizes the drug
- how long the mother has been using the substance
- whether the infant was full-term or premature
In most cases, the mother’s opiate abuse results in the baby starting life as an addict requiring immediate medical attention.
The number of mothers abusing opiates while pregnant (or at the time of delivery) is on the rise. In fact, the number increased five-fold in a ten year period since the year 2000, according to the NIDA. To look at it another way, every 25 minutes a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal.
Given the above facts about NAS, the risks of opiate withdrawal during pregnancy are fewer than the risks from continued use of the drug.
Are Maintenance Drugs Dangerous During Pregnancy?
Researchers have conducted numerous tests comparing the effects of methadone and buprenorphine maintenance drugs to treat opioid dependence during pregnancy. The findings indicate that buprenorphine treatment results in a shorter duration of treatment than does methadone. The researchers also report that buprenorphine treatment resulted in less severe NAS than those experienced with methadone. Of course, each person responds to the drugs differently. Therefore, more research is needed on the long-term effects of each method of treatment.
Opiate withdrawal during pregnancy is not something you want to attempt without medical supervision. Careful monitoring of the fetus is of utmost importance during this process. If you are pregnant and using or abusing opiate drugs, learn the facts about withdrawing safely and talk to your OB-GYN before attempting any of the suggestions you might read on online.
Further information concerning opiate withdrawal during pregnancy is available anytime day or night by calling our toll-free number listed above. One of our knowledgeable representatives will be happy to assist you.