What To Know About Taking Opiates when Pregnant

The statistics about every aspect of opioid use in the U.S. are astounding, and perhaps none more upsetting than reports on how many women use opiates while pregnant.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), millions of women in the U.S. take opioids, and they often take them without realizing they’re pregnant, unwittingly putting their babies at risk. The CDC says 1/3 of women enrolled in Medicaid, and 1/4 of women with private insurance filled opioid prescriptions every year from 2008 to 2012.

Doctors have expressed concern at these findings because around 50 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. aren’t planned, and taking opioids during the first weeks of pregnancy can lead to congenital disabilities.

It’s not just the filling of prescriptions that’s raising concerns for people in the medical field. Doctors say some of their patients have taken prescription opiates like Vicodin after becoming pregnant and are frequently not able to stop.

The report from the CDC didn’t look at the differences in situations for women who required a single prescription painkiller during their pregnancy, such as for a kidney stone, as compared to the chronic use of opioids. While a one-time prescription isn’t of much concern to the doctor, especially after the first trimester, chronic opioid users are at risk.

What To Know About Taking Opiates when Pregnant
Issues frequently arise with opiates and pregnancy because women don’t know they’re pregnant when they’re taking them, but also because they don’t know the potential risks of opioid use during pregnancy.Using opioids like heroin, Vicodin, and oxycodone during pregnancy can lead to serious concerns including premature birth, birth defects and stillbirth.Also, Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) can occur when babies are exposed to drugs, including opioids, in the womb. These babies are born addicted to those drugs and can experience severe withdrawal.Opiates taken during pregnancy can go through the placenta, reaching the fetus and NAS can lead to breathing problems for newborns, low birth weight, problems with feeding and seizures.A lot of women don’t understand that even if they’re taking prescribed opioids, there is still a risk for their baby to be born with NAS or other complications resulting from prescription drug use.Symptoms of babies going through withdrawal from opioids include irritability, excessive crying, difficulty gaining weight, vomiting, fever, tremors, seizures and potentially death. When a baby is born with NAS, they require extended hospitalization and medication until they can eventually live without opioids.Other potential birth defects that can result from taking opiates when pregnant include heart defects and stillbirth. Stillbirth refers to a baby that dies in the womb anytime after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Opioid use during pregnancy can also increase the risk of brain and spine defects, and lead to malformities of the abdominal wall.
Women who are pregnant and using opioids often feel hopeless and lost.First and foremost if you’re on opiates when pregnant, you should not stop cold turkey, as this can result in withdrawal symptoms and serious complications. The best thing to do is tell a health care provider. Quitting suddenly — particularly if you’re a heavy opioid user — can lead to the death of your baby.There are options that may be available for people who are on opioids during pregnancy, such as medication-assisted treatment. Medications commonly used to treat women who are pregnant and addicted to opioids including methadone and buprenorphine.Between 2000 and 2009 babies born with NAS tripled, and it’s imperative for women who could become pregnant to speak with their healthcare provider about the options available to them to safely stop using opioids.
What To Know About Taking Opiates when Pregnant
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What To Know About Taking Opiates when Pregnant was last modified: December 6th, 2017 by The Recovery Village