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Opioid Withdrawal While Pregnant

January 25, 2020

If you find yourself pregnant, you’ll need to consider what’s best for the baby, but your situation may be more complicated if you’ve been using opioids since before conception.

Opioid use during pregnancy can lead to babies being born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). This condition is caused when the opioids pass to the unborn baby through the placenta, causing the infant to be born dependent on the substance. NAS can cause feeding problems, low birth weight, respiratory issues, fever, seizures, diarrhea and restlessness. In addition, opioid use during pregnancy can lead to permanent birth defects, including potentially fatal heart defects.

Is Suboxone® Used During Pregnancy?

The first instinct a woman tends to have when she becomes pregnant and is using opioids is to attempt a “cold turkey” approach. However, stopping opioids suddenly and completely during pregnancy can cause the body to go into shock, which is dangerous for both the mother and the unborn child. Stopping opioids suddenly when pregnant can lead to fetal distress, preterm labor and even miscarriage.

The FDA has approved buprenorphine to help those suffering from opioid addiction, and recommend it over Suboxone during pregnancy.  Buprenorphine may be used during pregnancy if the patient is medically-supervised, and the OBGYN and treatment provider work together to monitor the health of the mother and unborn child. In many cases, this medication is prescribed during the second trimester.

Buprenorphine can be used to slowly wean a person off opioids and can be a powerful way to lessen withdrawal symptoms. It can make the shock of stopping opioids less extreme and have less impact on the baby. Suboxone® contains an opioid antagonist called naloxone and buprenorphine.

Using Buprenorphine During Pregnancy

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. It’s often sold under the name Suboxone®. Some doctors suggest buprenorphine treatment to pregnant women because the naloxone in Suboxone® can cause hormonal changes, which can have negative effects on a pregnancy. Naloxone can trigger withdrawal too, which can be harmful to the unborn child.

With buprenorphine, the risk of NAS still exist. However, when NAS occurs, the symptoms may be milder than for patients who do not use the medication. The symptoms may also be of shorter duration, lasting up to a week.

Any drug containing opioids, including medications used to treat opioid dependence, can cause birth defects. These issues can include congenital heart defects, glaucoma, hydrocephaly, spina bifida and gastroschisis. The risk makes it especially important for expecting mothers to work with skilled medical professionals for treating an opioid dependency and to stay fully supervised when using any treatment plan.

Another risk of using buprenorphine or Suboxone® is that medical staff and doctors who deliver the baby may notice the use of these substances and can accuse the parents of abuse. Working with a treatment center can help expecting mothers create a safe labor and delivery plan.

The Safest Option

While in many cases, buprenorphine is the option suggested to pregnant patients, each case is different. Working with a medical professional can help you determine the best course for a healthy pregnancy and baby.

If you need help, contact AppleGate Recovery. We help pregnant women who want to minimize the risks of opioids. With individualized treatment plans, counseling, medication assisted treatment and supportive solutions, we can offer proper care and prescriptions. If you are expecting and dependent on opioids, call AppleGate Recovery for help.

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