Taking Methadone During Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

Is it safe to take Methadone while pregnant?

Methadone is a type of opioid medication used to prevent withdrawal symptoms and treat addictions to opioids. Methadone is mainly given to people suffering from a heroin addiction. Many pregnant women use opioids like heroin during their pregnancy, which often causes miscarriages, premature births and some birth defects. The sharing of heroin needles may also cause diseases shared by blood.

Although methadone potentially has the risk for neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which occurs if a baby is born addicted to opioids, it is far safer than continuing heroin. Witnessing a newborn with withdrawal symptoms can be a tough time for the family; however, NAS is treatable, and it will not cause development issues like other opioids.

Finding the right treatment plan for the mother can prevent future health risks for her and the fetus.


Taking Methadone During Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

The key to methadone use while pregnant is to take it in small doses. Doctors will normally put expectant mothers on a treatment plan and monitor their dosage to prevent adverse health effects on the fetus.

The effects of methadone on a fetus vary. It is important for a woman taking methadone while pregnant to carefully follow their doctor’s instructions. If the methadone doses are too high, a baby may grow dependent on the drug, causing harmful withdrawal symptoms after birth. On the other hand, too little methadone may lead to the mother experiencing intense withdrawal symptoms, which is not only harmful to her and the fetus, but heroin withdrawal frequently leads to recurring heroin use.

Monitoring methadone use while pregnant is critical during the third trimester, as the mother’s metabolic needs usually increase and the fetus is in its final development phase, making it more susceptible to withdrawal.

If a newborn baby is born with a methadone addiction, they tend to experience withdrawal symptoms within the first 48 hours. The severity, however, depends on the methadone dosage during pregnancy.

Babies exposed to methadone usually experience:

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as poor feeding habits, slow weight gain, difficulty with latching (for breastfeeding mothers) and sometimes vomiting and dehydration.
  • Central nervous system symptoms such as more likely to startle from stimuli (e.g. touch, sound), irritability, jittery and reduced sleep.
  • Respiratory symptoms like frequent yawning and sneezing, rapid breathing and stuffy nose.

Seizures may also occur if an expectant mother takes high doses of methadone regularly. Taking other opioids with methadone while pregnant increases the risks of newborn seizures.

For many, seeking help for opioid addiction can be a difficult decision, especially if they are pregnant. Expectant mothers fear that society will treat them badly due to their struggle during pregnancy; however, it’s important for both the fetus and the mother to receive treatment. The Recovery Village will aid you or your loved on the road to recovery. To find a facility near you, visit us at www.TheRecoveryVillage.com or call our confidential, toll-free hotline available 24/7 at 855-548-9825.

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.