Taking Alfenta While Pregnant: What You Need to Know

Is Alfenta Safe to Take While Pregnant?

Alfenta is an injectable, brand name version of the opioid pain medication alfentanil. Alfenta is derived from fentanyl, an opioid that is 100 times more powerful than morphine. Alfenta is often used during surgery as a form of anesthesia, or as a pain medication in critically ill patients. Alfenta starts working very quickly, and because of its potency, it can quickly cause respiratory depression. Even when Alfenta is used in a medical setting, such as for anesthesia, respiratory depression is possible. Alfenta isn’t intended to be used outside of a hospital or in a clinical setting, but it can be diverted from medical use. Alfenta and other opioids are part of an ongoing epidemic in the U.S. These drugs, despite tight prescribing and use guidelines, are sold on the black market and cause hundreds of overdose deaths each day. The number of pregnant women dependent upon opioids has been on the rise in the U.S. over the past decade. On average, around 21,000 pregnant women abused opioids in the past month, according to a survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Is Alfenta safe to take while pregnant? The answer is no, but sometimes it can be more complicated than that. Whether a woman abuses Alfenta or other opioids, or uses them by prescription it’s so important to speak openly and honestly with a healthcare provider either before becoming pregnant or when she finds out she is pregnant.

The use of opioids during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk of birth defects and other pregnancy complications. The use of Alfenta and opioids during pregnancy increases the risk of premature delivery and C-section. It can also increase the risk of preeclampsia. A mother who is using opioids may be less likely to go to her prenatal doctor’s appointments or may neglect areas of her health like nutrition. However, if a woman finds out that she’s pregnant and suddenly stops taking Alfenta or another opioid, there can be risks as well. These risks can include miscarriage, stillbirth, and placental abruption -which can lead to severe bleeding and death of the mother and the baby.

Taking Alfenta While Pregnant: What You Need to Know

The use of Alfenta or opioids during pregnancy can have varying and far-reaching effects on an unborn baby. It can increase the risks of a miscarriage or fetal death. The use of opioids during pregnancy can cause problems with the placenta, preterm labor, or premature birth. Fetal growth restriction may occur, and a baby may be born addicted to and dependent upon opioids. Certain birth defects may be more likely with exposure to opioids as well. Because Alfenta is a drug that’s injected, the mother may be more likely to contract certain diseases like HIV, which can impact the health and wellness of the mother and the baby.

If a mother uses opioids like Alfenta during pregnancy, it’s possible the baby will be born addicted to these drugs. After birth, the baby will experience withdrawal symptoms which can range from mild to severe. This is called neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS. Symptoms of NAS typically happen anywhere from a few hours after birth to a few weeks. They can last for a week or several months. Symptoms of NAS from opioids can include fever, sweating, and breathing problems. Babies with NAS from opioid exposure may have problems feeding or gaining weight, they may be very fussy or irritable, and they may have tremors and convulsions. Some babies with NAS have rigid muscles, and they experience diarrhea and vomiting. NAS is typically treated in a newborn intensive care unit (NICU). The baby might be given maintenance medications like methadone, and the symptoms can be treated as they arise. The focus is on helping the baby get the proper nutrition and hydration during this time in particular.

If you use opioids like Alfenta and you find out that you’re pregnant, it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider immediately. Options are available, but stopping suddenly or “cold turkey” is not a good one. Pregnant women may be advised to follow medication-assisted treatment options such as methadone or buprenorphine. The baby may still be born addicted to opioids, but it is more likely that it will have fewer severe symptoms. Some women may be able to participate in a medically-supervised detox and addiction treatment program. A healthcare provider will likely want to provide additional monitoring and testing for a woman who is dependent upon opioids like Alfenta. If a woman is prescribed Alfenta or an opioid pain reliever, her doctor may be able to work with her to create a non-opioid pain management plan that’s safer for the baby. Pregnant women may be worried about telling their healthcare providers about their use of opioids, but it’s very important to have an honest discussion for their health and the health of the baby.

If you’re pregnant and dependent on opioids, options are available for you. Contact The Recovery Village, and we can talk more about medically-assisted detox and other addiction treatment programs. Recovery can be a reality.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.