Is It Okay to Take Ultiva While Pregnant?

Ultiva is a prescription pain medication, and the generic name is remifentanil. Ultiva is a powerful opioid pain reliever that’s also used to put people to sleep prior to surgery. Ultiva is intended only to be given to patients in a hospital or clinical setting because it’s injected intravenously. Ultiva can be administered directly into the vein, or it can be administered as an infusion into the vein over a period of time. Ultiva can have serious side effects, particularly related to its depressant effects on the central nervous system. Serious side effects of Ultiva can include slow heartbeat, trouble breathing, or feelings of wheezing or tightness in the chest or throat. Seizures are another severe side effect possible with the use of Ultiva. More common side effects possible with Ultiva include headache, shivering, vomiting and constipation.

Ultiva is a controlled substance only intended to be administered under the direction of medical professionals. However, drugs like Ultiva are sometimes diverted from medical use and sold on the black market. Medical diversion is one component of the opioid epidemic in the United States. Remifentanil is a synthetic opioid, and procedures it’s often used with include gastric bypass surgery, cardiac surgery and spinal surgery. Due to how short-acting it is, remifentanil can be useful to speed up recovery after these procedures. Despite its short-acting nature, remifentanil is extremely potent. It’s twice as potent as fentanyl. Remifentanil is also 100 to 200 times more powerful than morphine. Even when it’s administered under medical supervision, there is a risk of respiratory depression. Patients have to be carefully monitored by an airway management healthcare provider when they’re given Ultiva.

So, is it okay to take Ultiva while pregnant? There are two different scenarios where someone might wonder if Ultiva is safe during pregnancy. First would be if Ultiva were given by a medical professional prior to a procedure or during labor. This is something that would be up to the doctor and medical team to determine. A doctor will often weigh the use of certain substances and compare the risks versus the benefits if they’re used during pregnancy. On the other hand, if a woman recreationally uses Ultiva and becomes pregnant, she may wonder what the risks to her unborn baby are. Generally speaking, Ultiva isn’t something that should be used during pregnancy unless under the supervision of a medical professional.

How Can Ultiva Affect Your Baby?

There is limited research on how Ultiva specifically can affect your baby. However, there is research available as to the possible effects of opioids in general if they’re used during pregnancy. Remifentanil is a category C pregnancy drug, indicating there are possible risks if it’s used during pregnancy. With a category C drug, there have been risks shown in animal studies. There isn’t a lot of well-controlled human research assessing the safety of category C drugs. With a category C drug like Ultiva, a doctor may still instruct a pregnant woman to take it, only if the benefits outweigh the risks.

According to the CDC, the use of Ultiva during pregnancy or other opioids may be linked to an increased risk of neural tube defects. Neural tube defects include spina bifida. The risk of a neural tube defect is especially high if a mother uses opioids in the first trimester of pregnancy since this is when most major development is occurring. The CDC also points out there is an increased risk of congenital heart defects with opioid use during pregnancy. Other birth defects cited by the FDA as being linked to opioid use include hydrocephaly and glaucoma. Of course, using opioids doesn’t mean a baby will certainly have birth defects. It does create more significant levels of risk, however.

Babies Born Addicted to Ultiva

There is also the potential for a baby to be born addicted to Ultiva. Ultiva passes through the placenta if it’s used during pregnancy. If it or any other opioid is regularly used, the baby may become addicted and dependent on it. If a baby is born with dependence on Ultiva, they will likely go through neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Symptoms of NAS can be severe, and typically a baby will require NICU treatment. Symptoms of NAS related to opioids can include problems with feeding and eating. Babies with NAS will often have trouble gaining weight and may be diagnosed with failure to thrive. Other symptoms of NAS can include irritability and excessive crying, fever, sweating and tremors.

Alternatives to Taking Ultiva While Pregnant

When a woman is pregnant, it’s not very likely her doctor will prescribe a drug like Ultiva, unless it’s absolutely necessary. On the other hand, if a woman recreationally uses Ultiva or opioids, she needs to speak with her doctor about what her options may be. To stop using Ultiva or opioids suddenly can have its own risks. For example, if a woman stops using opioids cold turkey during pregnancy, it can lead to complications like a placental abruption or miscarriage. Rather than stopping Ultiva cold turkey, a pregnant woman may need to stop using the drug gradually. Another option for pregnant women is a medically-assisted detox. During this time a woman can receive around-the-clock medical care that can help keep her and her unborn baby safe. Following a medically-supervised detox, a pregnant woman might also find benefits with a professional addiction treatment program.

If you’d like to learn more about addiction treatment programs, including options during pregnancy, call The Recovery Village today.

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.