Heroin While Pregnant: What You Need to Know

Every 25 minutes, a baby in the United States is born suffering from opioid withdrawal. Heroin is one of the opioids that is commonly misused. Heroin binds to receptors in the brain and creates a euphoric high that people’s brains become accustomed to and eventually crave, thus forming an addiction. Since heroin is so powerful, stopping usage can be difficult and uncomfortable if not done correctly. For mothers who are expecting and struggle with substance misuse, there can be numerous fears and worries due to the presence of the addiction. It is important to seek medical assistance as soon as possible to try and reduce the chance that the substance impacts the fetus, and also reduce the risks that heroin may cause birth defects.

Effects of Heroin on Fetus | Heroin and Pregnancy
Heroin is an illegal drug that comes from the poppy plant, and is commonly cut with other substances so drug dealers can sell it at a higher profit. Heroin can be mixed with baking soda, flour, laundry detergent, white sugar or another deadly drug, fentanyl. When secondary substances are mixed into heroin, it can be difficult to know just what a person is about to ingest. If the drug dealer mixed in baking powder or sugar, the high will not be as strong. However, if another drug, like fentanyl was mixed in with the heroin, the likelihood of overdose, and dying from one, increases tremendously.

Just like other opioids, heroin increases the amount of dopamine that is produced in the brain. However, heroin can create such a euphoric feeling that people tend to seek out the drug so they can continue to feel the enjoyable high. Using the drug repeatedly can quickly cause a dependence to form.

The effects that heroin can have on an unborn child can be upsetting. Women may experience placental abruption, which is when the placenta separates from the uterine wall which cuts off the oxygen and food supply a fetus receives. Placental abruption can cause heavy bleeding that can be deadly for the mother and the baby. There are also possibilities of a baby being born prematurely or at a low birthweight, as well as the child developing cognitive issues. Fetuses exposed to heroin can be stillborn, meaning that the baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy. There is also a risk with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which is the unexplained death of a child younger than one year old.
When babies are born with heroin in their system, they can be diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which is when an infant experiences withdrawal symptoms from the heroin their mother consumed during the pregnancy. NAS symptoms include tremors, seizures, fussiness, diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating, trouble sleeping and crying in a high-pitched tone. The kind of symptoms a baby can exhibit depends on the severity of their mother’s heroin addiction. In some cases, babies may need methadone to relieve their symptoms and to be weaned off the medication for several days or weeks.

Babies born with NAS can face several challenges in terms of their health. If a child is not treated properly, they can experience issues with their vision, hearing and communication skills. There is also a chance that they can become very hyperactive and struggle with focusing. Cognitive and perceptual skills may also be affected by the presence of NAS.

Heroin should not be consumed by pregnant women. Seeking help from a medical professional to find the most effective way to wean off heroin is the best choice, and the safest decision a mother can make for herself and her child. However, safely weaning off of heroin is a necessity, because when a woman quits cold turkey her severe withdrawal symptoms can be fatal to the fetus. A doctor at a treatment facility has the authority to prescribe methadone or buprenorphine to help reduce the need for heroin. If a woman decides against medication, doctors can work out a tapering schedule to help wean them off heroin.

If a woman is considering having a child but is still struggling with her drug addiction, entering treatment can help. The Recovery Village has facilities around the country that can assist prospective mothers work toward a heroin-free life before they try to begin a family. Treatment plans are built around each person’s specific situation and the severity of their addiction. The Recovery Village can help patients detox from heroin and manage their withdrawal symptoms. Afterwards, patients enter an individualized treatment program to find ways to manage their addiction. The Recovery Village can also assist patients with aftercare services, such as sober-living housing.

If you or a loved one are hoping to have a child but need help managing your addiction, call The Recovery Village. Representatives are available to answer questions you may have regarding facilities, programs or insurance options. Calls are free and confidential. Take the first step toward recovery today.

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