Is It Safe to Take Pentothal While Pregnant?

Pentothal is a brand-name medication, and it shouldn’t be confused with the similarly named pentobarbital. The active ingredient in Pentothal is called sodium thiopental. Pentothal is a fast-acting barbiturate, used in general anesthesia. It was at one point on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. However, it was replaced by propofol. Pentothal is occasionally used during induction of general anesthesia. It’s very frequently used for intubation and in obstetrics. Pentothal is administered intravenously, and it reaches the brain and causes unconsciousness within 30 to 45 seconds after it’s given. Within anywhere from five to ten minutes later, consciousness starts to return. A woman may be given a dose of Pentothal if she’s going to have a cesarean section. The reason it’s used for this purpose is that it can cause the mother to lose consciousness, but the baby will remain conscious. However, with large or repeated doses, the baby could experience respiratory depression.

Pentothal is a central nervous system depressant that also slows brain activity. Common side effects can include continuing drowsiness and slow or shallow breathing. Slow heart rate, chills, sneezing and tightness of the chest can also occur with the administration of Pentothal. Because Pentothal is given intravenously in hospital and clinical settings, the potential for recreational misuse is low. However, it does occur. The use of barbiturates like Pentothal can lead to dependence and addiction if they’re diverted from medical use. For many years, barbiturates were frequently prescribed to treat conditions like insomnia and anxiety. Now, because of the risks particularly of respiratory depression and death as well as addiction, they’re not commonly used outside of hospital settings.

Is it safe to take Pentothal while pregnant? There are two different scenarios to consider with the use of Pentothal while pregnant. First, would be the recreational or prescription use throughout pregnancy. This is not recommended, as barbiturates are generally considered unsafe during pregnancy. Another scenario would be the use of Pentothal during labor and delivery. This may be okay and wouldn’t affect the development of the baby.

Will Taking Pentothal Cause Birth Defects?

It is possible the use of Pentothal could cause birth defects, particularly if it were used in the first trimester. The use of barbiturates is linked with several complications and birth defects when used during pregnancy. Some research has linked barbiturate use during pregnancy with an increased risk of a baby developing a brain tumor. There is an increased risk of problems with cardiac system development. The use of barbiturates may also contribute to a higher risk of neural tube defects of the brain and spine, such as spina bifida. The development of a cleft lip or palate may occur with prenatal exposure to barbiturates. Minor physical defects may occur, such as hypertelorism, which is widely spaced eyes. Barbiturates can prevent enough Vitamin K from going through the placenta and reaching the fetus. Without enough Vitamin K, a baby may not have enough blood clotting abilities, which can cause serious complications within the first 24 hours after birth.

Babies Born Addicted to Pentothal

When a baby is exposed to Pentothal or other barbiturates in the womb, the baby may form a dependence. With a dependence, the baby will begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms after birth. Symptoms of neonatal barbiturate withdrawal can vary in severity and longevity. Factors that influence the severity of Pentothal withdrawal include how much was used and how long it was used during pregnancy, as well as individual factors such as genetics. A baby born with neonatal withdrawal symptoms may be irritable, may excessively cry or may have a high-pitched cry. Other symptoms can include tremors, rigidity and problems sleeping and feeding. The time it takes for these symptoms to subside can vary. Babies born dependent on substances typically have to spend time receiving specialized care and treatment in the NICU.

Alternatives to Taking Pentothal While Pregnant

If a woman is recreationally misusing Pentothal while pregnant, she may require professional addiction treatment. The first step would be a medically-supervised detox program. Withdrawal from barbiturates during pregnancy can be dangerous for the mother and her unborn child. During a medically-supervised detox, the mother can receive proper medical care and a safe detox environment, which will reduce the risk of complications. Following detox, a mother can participate in an addiction treatment program. If a woman’s doctor gives her Pentothal during labor and delivery, this is a different situation. It’s likely safe for the mother and the baby when administered in a hospital environment, with professional monitoring.

To learn more about addiction treatment, including while you’re pregnant, contact The Recovery Village. Our team of experts is compassionate, dedicated to helping people experience recovery and we build our programs on the needs of the individual.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with 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 providers.