Subutex and Pregnancy and Side Effects

Subutex is a brand name, prescription drug that’s used as a way to help people addicted to and dependent on opioids as they go through detox. The active ingredient in Subutex is called buprenorphine.

There are benefits to the use of medications like Subutex, but what about if you’re pregnant and you are on it, or you want to stop using opioids with the use of a medication like this? What should you know about Subutex and pregnancy and side effects?

The following provides an overview of what Subutex is, and what to know about its use during pregnancy as well as breastfeeding.

Subutex and Pregnancy and Side Effects
As mentioned, the active ingredient in Subutex is called buprenorphine, which is classified as a partial opioid agonist. It’s available by prescription from certified doctors trained on its use, and the objective is to help people who are physically dependent on opioids such as prescription painkillers or heroin to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Opioid withdrawal can include symptoms ranging from mild to severe, depending on the extent of your drug use. Opioid withdrawal isn’t deadly, but it is a huge obstacle for people to get and stay sober because it is so uncomfortable. The use of Subutex can make this process safer and more comfortable, reduce cravings and lower the risk of relapse as someone attempts to recover from addiction. Subutex activates the same receptor sites as opioid drugs, preventing withdrawal but not creating a euphoric high. It does have benefits and therapeutic value, but what if you’re pregnant?
Using opioids while pregnant, whether prescription painkillers or heroin, can cause serious damage to the fetus. Your child could be born with a range of developmental problems, and also going through their own withdrawal. It’s important that mothers try to discontinue the use of opioids while pregnant for the well-being of their own health, their pregnancy, and their child. Unfortunately, detoxing while pregnant can also be dangerous. Withdrawal from opioids while pregnant can cause respiratory depression which can cause the fetus to not get an adequate amount of oxygen. This can be deadly. Opioid withdrawal during pregnancy can also cause anxiety and depression, which can be problematic physically and psychologically for the mother and her unborn child. Stopping opioids cold turkey can cause miscarriage and low birth weight as well. So what’s the solution if both using opioids and detoxing from opioids during pregnancy are dangerous?
One option that may be available for women who are facing opioid dependency while pregnant is medication-assisted detox. Subutex or buprenorphine is an option that’s given to people to help them detox from opioids, as was touched on above, but are there risks of this as well? The general guidance suggests that the use of buprenorphine may be safe for pregnant women with opioid use disorder, particularly as compared to trying to detox during pregnancy without medication. With that being said, this doesn’t mean that the use of Subutex during pregnancy is guaranteed safe, and there is a small risk it could be harmful to a fetus or that it could lead to the child being born going through withdrawal, but doctors often feel it’s safer than the alternatives. It’s extremely important that you are fully honest with your healthcare provider if you are planning to become pregnant or are already pregnant because ultimately they’re the person who’s going to be guiding the care decisions and who will decide if Subutex is the best option for you during your pregnancy.
One of the primary Subutex and pregnancy side effects is the risk of NAS occurring. NAS stands for neonatal abstinence syndrome, which is what happens when a woman who is pregnant takes opioids, and their baby is born dependent on them. However, while NAS is possible with the use of buprenorphine during pregnancy, the belief currently is that symptoms of this condition would be shorter and less severe as compared to true opioids. There is also some risk of certain birth defects with the use of Subutex during pregnancy, but this is something to be discussed with your doctor who will explain the risks and weigh them to determine what’s right for you and your unborn child.
What about the use of Subutex and breastfeeding? For the most part, Subutex and breastfeeding are believed to be okay in combination with one another. This is for a few different reasons. First, there are relatively low levels of buprenorphine that pass to breastmilk, and it also has low levels of oral bioavailability in infants. There are low concentrations of buprenorphine found in the urine of breastfed infants as well. Some of the possible side effects of buprenorphine while breastfeeding can include drowsiness, and mothers should monitor their baby to make sure they’re gaining weight and meeting milestones, and if they notice anything unusual, they should immediately contact a doctor.
Subutex and Pregnancy and Side Effects
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