With opiate addiction being so prevalent in America, it’s no surprise that many pregnant women also find themselves addicted to opioids and opiates. Studies show that approximately 13% of pregnant women in America abuse illicit substances during their pregnancy. Of those people, opiates, like heroin, morphine and prescription drugs, are the drug of choice for 19% of pregnant women.
An opiate addiction can do tremendous harm to both the mother and the unborn child. It doesn’t matter whether the addiction is for heroin or for prescription opiates. The addict should seek help from a recovery center in order to reduce the amount of harm that they are doing to their child. The goal is to switch the mother from illicit substances to prescription substances at the very least. There is no telling what types of other cutting agents and harmful toxins are present in illicit substances.
The treatment program will try to wean the mothers off of opiates without triggering any opiate withdrawal symptoms. This usually involves the use of medical detox. Various medications can be used to help curb cravings and ease symptoms. This type of medical detox is also known as Opiate Replacement Therapy (ORT).
What Is Opiate Replacement Therapy (ORT) and How Does It Work?
Opiate Replacement Therapy (ORT) involves switching from a stronger opioid to a weaker opioid. Opioids attach to opioid receptors in the central nervous system (CNS) to stimulate an effect. The opioids cause levels of dopamine and serotonin to go haywire. The body soon becomes reliant on opioids to maintain healthy levels of neurotransmitters.
When quitting, the lack of opioids triggers different cascades that affect the neurotransmitters. Lower levels of dopamine cause addicts to feel depressed and sluggish, among many other symptoms. Opioid withdrawal symptoms will also begin to kick in,
To ease these symptoms, weaker opioids and opiates are used. These prescription drugs will attach to the same opioid receptors. They have a similar effect, and are known as agonists. They prevent the stronger opioids from bonding and they help patients slowly wean off of the drugs. Patients are expected to take a high dose of medication in the beginning. The dose slowly gets lowered until the medication is no longer necessary.
The medications used in ORT are less addictive; however, they are still addictive and should not be abused or misused. Patients who rely on ORT will still need to keep an eye out for signs of opiate addiction, as a secondary addiction is possible.
Potential Complications Involving Opiate Abuse During Pregnancy
Opiate addiction and abuse during pregnancy can lead to a 600% increase in prenatal obstetric complications. Pregnant women are more likely to experience pregnancy complications. The babies tend to have lower birth weights and are at a greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The babies are more at risk of:
- Being stillbirths
- Having a low birth weight
- Having behavioral problems
- Struggling with developmental delays
- Struggling with learning disabilities
The mothers also tend to have poor prenatal care. In fact, 75% of pregnant women tend to never seek prenatal care. This negligence only increases their risk of having to struggle with other serious implications. The mothers tend to not get enough nutrients in their diet. They are also unaware of how to care for the baby.
Another common complication that pregnant women struggling with drug addiction face is neonatal abstinence syndrome. This is a term for a condition where babies experience withdrawal symptoms from their mother’s substance abuse. The effects of the drug abuse can affect the baby in many ways. Some of these side effects can be quite serious and difficult to work with. It puts these babies at a huge disadvantage. The drug abuse hinders their growth and development.
To bring a healthy baby to term and to avoid these complications, pregnant women struggling with substance abuse should seek addiction treatment. Opiate addiction treatment at treatment centers can help pregnant mothers slowly wean off of the opiates. This will have the least impact on the baby. Mothers who experience a drug overdose will do tremendous harm to the baby.
Complications that Pregnant Women May Experience
Pregnant women who abuse opioids are also more likely to experience certain complications. The risks are even higher for those who inject the drug intravenously. Pregnant women are more likely to experience co-occurring disorders, or have a dual diagnosis, since their hormones are already fluctuating like crazy. They are also more likely to encounter the following medical conditions:
- Hepatitis B or C
Many opiate addicts also suffer from nutritional neglect. They will need vitamin supplements to boost their health. They will need a treatment program that can offer around-the-clock supervision at the recovery center. The treatment program should also specialize in treating addictions to prescription drugs. The right drug addiction treatment can make a world of a difference.
A More In-Depth Look at Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
Suddenly quitting prescription opioids and illicit drugs can do more harm than good on the unborn child. The pregnant mothers will struggle with a wide array of opiate withdrawal symptoms. Some of these symptoms may be life threatening, and can be difficult to overcome without help from rehab centers.
Much like with the mothers, the unborn child can be severely impacted by the sudden cessation of opioid abuse. This period of withdrawal is known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). The withdrawal symptoms can begin several days after birth. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms of NAS include:
- Eating problems
- Excessive crying
- Hyperactive reflexes
- Low weight and slow weight gain
- Profuse sweating
- Rapid breathing and heart rate
- Sleep problems
- Seizures and trembling
In many situations, babies with NAS will need to stay at the prenatal care of the hospital until their symptoms dissipate. The babies will go through medical detox. They will be prescribed different types of drugs that treat opiate abuse, like methadone, buprenorphine and Suboxone. Since these drugs are addictive, the babies will have to slowly wean off of them. The nursing staff will also keep an eye out for signs of opiate addiction.
If you’re pregnant, it’s best to avoid opiate withdrawal symptoms as much as possible. Slowly wean off of prescription opioids and illicit drugs with substance abuse treatment at a recovery center.
Buprenorphine Treatment for Pregnant Mothers
To treat an addiction to heroin and other opioids, most recovery centers will recommend a methadone treatment. However, this is not the only option. Many studies have begun to look at the advantages and practicality of using buprenorphine instead. Buprenorphine treatment is just as effective as a methadone treatment program. In fact, studies show that buprenorphine may produce less severe NAS symptoms. These studies also show that buprenorphine is safe and effective for both the mother and the unborn child.
The dose of buprenorphine will depend on each patient’s biological makeup and response to the drug. This type of abuse treatment must be tailored to each patient. Some patients may want to opt for buprenorphine treatment over other alternatives. This is because buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. It has a “ceiling effect” and is much more difficult to abuse than methadone.
While opioid detox can make the addiction must less dangerous to the baby, it also needs to be paired with some type of behavioral therapy. The behavioral therapy can teach pregnant women important life skills on how to care for a baby. It will also help patients build better habits and learn how to steer clear from drugs. Behavioral therapy is also effective in treating a dual diagnosis. For example, some pregnant women may also be struggling with an eating disorder or a personality disorder.
Reasons Why Buprenorphine May Be a Better Option than Methadone
Some doctors may prescribe buprenorphine over methadone to pregnant women. Some pregnant women may also choose to take buprenorphine instead of methadone. There are many reasons that may sway a patient to choose buprenorphine over methadone. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Not being able to easily access or find methadone
- Not being able to tolerate methadone
- Already using buprenorphine prior to getting pregnant
Pregnant women who were already seeking abuse treatment for an opioid addiction may switch to Subutex. Parents can also switch infants with NAS to Subutex as well. Studies show that Subutex produces less severe NAS symptoms.
Get Help for an Opiate Addiction Even When You’re Pregnant
Dealing with a pregnancy can be stressful and scary enough. Most women who are pregnant will want to stop abusing opioids in hopes of having a healthier baby. There are many different opiate treatment programs available that rely on medical detox. Other than buprenorphine, there are other medications, like methadone, available as well.
Here, at New England Recovery and Wellness, we recognize the struggles of having an addiction to opiates and opioids. We understand that an addiction to heroin or other opioids can be difficult to kick, even if you’re pregnant. We can give you answers to many frequently asked questions about taking opioids when pregnant.
If you’re not the person who’s addicted, you should still speak with them about their addiction. Motivate and encourage pregnant women to get the help that they need. It’s good for not only them, but also for their baby. There are plenty of intervention programs out there that can help you get your message across.
We offer various types of opiates and opioids treatment programs. Visit our facility and allow our staff to assess your situation to get a better understanding of your addiction. We can walk you through the entire process and help you make an informed decision about our intensive outpatient treatment program. We can also point you towards the right type of resources. Put your trust in us, and we’ll help you successfully wean off of opiates and opioids.