Pregnancy and Opioid Addiction

May 24, 2021

Pregnancy is an exciting time in a woman’s life. It’s filled with joy of bringing a new life into the world and wonderment of who this new little person will be. However, when a mother is suffering from an opioid use disorder in combination with her pregnancy, it can lead to devastating consequences for the mother and the baby.

According to the CDC, in 2019 about 7% of women reported using prescription opioid pain relievers during pregnancy. Of those, 1 in 5 reported misuse.

Fluctuating levels of opioids in the mother may expose the fetus to repeated periods of withdrawal, which can harm placenta function. Other physical risks include: neonatal abstinence syndrome, stunted growth, preterm labor, fetal convulsions, and fetal death.

Treatment for pregnant women does exist. Current recommendations include medication-assisted treatment (MAT), rather than supervised withdrawal, due to a higher likelihood of better outcomes and a reduced risk of relapse. Treatment with methadone or buprenorphine improves infant outcomes by: stabilizing fetal levels of opioids, reducing repeated prenatal withdrawal, linking mothers to treatment for infectious diseases (e.g., HIV, HBV, HCV), reducing likelihood of transmittal to the unborn baby, providing opportunity for better prenatal care, and improving long-term health outcomes for the mother and baby.

Just as treatment during pregnancy is important, treatment in the postpartum period is important as well. Women who are struggling with their opioid use disorder during pregnancy should continue with MAT postpartum.

If you’re pregnant and struggling with your addiction or know someone else who is, OARS will be by your side every step of the way to treat you and we’ll work with area hospitals that will help you deliver a happy, healthy baby.