When a woman is pregnant, she’s essentially sharing everything she puts in her body with her baby. This includes the food she eats, the air she breathes, and unfortunately the harmful substances as well.

It’s doubtful that too many women aim to use heroin when pregnant, but with addiction to this drug and other opioids on the rise, a woman may become pregnant and feel like she can’t stop. It’s difficult, and some states have created laws to punish women who use heroin when pregnant and other drugs, but that doesn’t mean it’s eradicated the problem. Far from it, in fact.

Heroin is a very powerful and very addictive drug that can cause immense harm to the person using it, and if she’s pregnant, also to her unborn child.

The use of heroin is prevalent, however. In the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 329,000 people in the U.S. said they’d used heroin in the past month, and that included 79,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44.

Also relevant to the discussion of heroin when pregnant is the fact that more than half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, so at the same time heroin and opioid abuse are significant problems, many women don’t even know they’re pregnant, and they continue using drugs.

What To Know About Heroin When Pregnant
We’ll cover the effects of heroin when pregnant for the baby, but the mother is also at risk of many adverse consequences. First, using heroin in and of itself can lead you to become pregnant without meaning to, because it clouds your decision-making skills and it may also lead you to participate in risky behaviors you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Only around 26 percent of women who use heroin also used birth control according to research published in the American Journal of Public Health.

When you’re using heroin when pregnant, you may continue to put yourself in bad situations, and you might not focus on the health and well-being of yourself or your child, including nutrition and general wellness.

The other big problem, however, is that when you’re on heroin when pregnant, and you try to stop, you can go into withdrawal and symptoms can include everything from nausea to anxiety and depression. Withdrawal symptoms can lead women to relapse and use heroin again while pregnant.

Women who are on heroin when pregnant tend to have low rates of showing up to their prenatal doctor visits as well. Mothers who are on heroin when pregnant may harm themselves, experience relationship problems and domestic violence, and participate in criminal activity.

When you use heroin when pregnant, it can pass on to your baby and cause very serious or even deadly problems.

First and foremost, heroin when pregnant can lead to congenital disabilities that can alter how a baby develops and their health for their entire lifetime. Premature birth is more likely as well as low birth weight.

Placental abruption happens when the placenta separates from the uterine wall before birth, and that can be deadly for a mother and the baby. Neonatal abstinence syndrome is something that happens when a baby is exposed to drugs in the womb and then is born going through withdrawal.

All of these are possibilities that are increased when you’re on heroin while pregnant.

Babies exposed to heroin in the women are also at a higher likelihood of dying in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and of experiencing sudden infant death syndrome, which is the unexplained death of a baby that’s less than a year old.

Women who are pregnant and addicted to heroin are advised to first and foremost talk to their health care provider because sometimes quitting cold turkey can lead to complications as well. There are options including buprenorphine which may be safe for pregnant women to combat an addiction to heroin but always speak with a medical professional if this is an issue you’re facing.

If you or a loved one live with addiction or are using drugs recreationally and want to stop, The Recovery Village® can help. Reach out to one of our representatives today to learn how you can start on your path to recovery.

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.

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