Suboxone And Pregnancy: Dangers, Risks, and Alternatives

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on July 14, 2021

Suboxone is a prescription medication that can be safe for use by people who are pregnant with opioid use disorder. This does carry some risks, however. Alternatives to Suboxone for opioid use disorder during pregnancy are available.

Can I Take Suboxone While Pregnant?

During pregnancy, Suboxone can be prescribed for opioid replacement therapy, along with counseling and full prenatal care.

Suboxone is not clinically recommended as a first-choice option for use during pregnancy.

However, the benefits of Suboxone for opioid addiction for people who are pregnant are believed to outweigh the potential risks of forgoing MAT.

Learn more about taking Suboxone during medication-assisted treatment

Can You Take Suboxone During Pregnancy?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first-line therapy options for opioid dependence in people who are pregnant are methadone and buprenorphine.

Suboxone is the brand name for a medication that contains buprenorphine and naloxone. At this time, the CDC does not recommend buprenorphine/naloxone combination products during pregnancy, due to limited evidence confirming its safety.

Even so, a small body of research that has looked into the effects of Suboxone during pregnancy suggests that:

  • it can be just as safe to use during pregnancy as buprenorphine
  • it does not pose additional health risks

Risks Of Taking Suboxone While Pregnant

Suboxone is a drug that is only prescribed for people who are opioid-dependent or have an opioid use disorder. This means it is generally used as an opioid replacement.

Due to its medical value and reduced risk for drug misuse, Suboxone is generally considered safer for use than opioids such as heroin, oxycodone, or fentanyl.

The primary risk of taking Suboxone while pregnant is neonatal abstinence syndrome, which can develop through the maternal use of Suboxone.

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What Is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)?

Neonatal abstinence syndrome occurs when a baby becomes dependent on drugs or alcohol during pregnancy through the substance use of the mother.

This can be dangerous in part because it can cause a baby to develop mild to severe withdrawal symptoms shortly after it is delivered.

Signs of neonatal opioid withdrawal include:

  • high-pitched crying
  • vomiting
  • shaking
  • irritability
  • fever
  • difficulty feeding
  • diarrhea

The symptoms and consequences of NAS can occur on a spectrum. Not all cases of NAS lead to serious short-term or long-term consequences for a baby, if treated appropriately.

What Is The Risk Of NAS With Suboxone Use During Pregnancy?

Taking Suboxone, methadone, or buprenorphine while pregnant does carry a risk for causing neonatal abstinence syndrome.

However, the CDC reports that this risk should not deter healthcare providers from prescribing medications for opioid use disorder during pregnancy.

It should also not deter people who are prescribed this medication from taking it.

Although the use of Suboxone during pregnancy can lead to NAS, cases are generally less severe than in the absence of treatment, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Health experts share that taking medications for opioid use disorder during pregnancy outweighs the potential risks of opioid relapse, which can have adverse maternal and fetal outcomes.

What Suboxone Can Do For People Who Are Pregnant

Suboxone is a medication that can effectively treat opioid cravings, help people stay in treatment, and prevent relapse to heroin or other opioids during pregnancy.

For people with a history of opioid abuse who are pregnant, these benefits can be important and potentially life-saving for both the mother and the developing fetus.

When taken as directed by a doctor, Suboxone can be safe during pregnancy, as one component of a full treatment program for people who are pregnant and addicted to opioids.

Alternatives To Suboxone Treatment During Pregnancy

The two primary alternatives to Suboxone for opioid addiction during pregnancy are methadone and buprenorphine, both of which are recommended for addiction treatment during pregnancy.

Taking buprenorphine and methadone to replace opioids during pregnancy can:

  • reduce the risk of severe NAS
  • reduce the length of hospital stays
  • connect mothers with treatment for infectious diseases
  • improve long-term maternal and fetal outcomes

However, if you do become pregnant while taking Suboxone, do not stop taking it without first talking to a doctor.

Your doctor can provide medical recommendations for treatment during pregnancy that are based on your medical history and health status.

Can You Detox From Suboxone Use During Pregnancy?

Stopping Suboxone while pregnant is not recommended, particularly if there is no plan to switch to a safer, evidence-based alternative.

Detoxing off a drug like Suboxone while pregnant carries a high risk for relapse to opioid use, which can be dangerous for both the mother and the developing fetus.

What To Do If You Become Pregnant While Taking Suboxone

If you become pregnant while taking Suboxone, tell your doctor about your pregnancy as soon as possible. They can help you by creating a safe and supportive treatment plan.

People who are addicted to opioids and become pregnant should not try to stop taking drugs on their own or begin taking drugs without the guidance of a qualified treatment professional.

Get Help For Drug Addiction During Pregnancy Today

Beginning the journey towards recovery from opioid addiction while pregnant is possible.

If you or a loved one is both pregnant and addicted to opioids, we can help you find a treatment program that’s right for you.

Treatment programs for pregnant patients can offer:

  • prenatal care
  • medication-assisted treatment
  • counseling services
  • behavioral therapy
  • medical supervision
  • care coordination

Call our helpline today to find a treatment center near you that offers a specialized treatment program for pregnant patients with opioid use disorder.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on July 14, 2021
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