Methadone is a long-acting opioid medication that is considered a preferred treatment for opioid addiction in people who are pregnant.
Methadone use during pregnancy does come with certain risks, including neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, a form of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
However, risks associated with methadone use while pregnant can be monitored and effectively managed under the supervision of a treatment team.
Methadone Treatment For Opioid Use Disorder During Pregnancy
According to data from the CDC’s Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, about seven percent of women report using opioids during pregnancy.
Of these pregnant women:
- 20% reported misusing prescription opioids
- 27% reported wanting to reduce or cut down on their opioid use
- 32% said they were not told of the potential risks of opioid use during pregnancy
Methadone is a medication that can safely replace the use of other opioid drugs, including illicit opioids like heroin and prescription opioids, during pregnancy.
Methadone is also used as a medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, which is a type of long-term treatment for sustaining recovery from opioid addiction.
Side Effects Of Taking Methadone While Pregnant
Methadone is a prescription pain reliever and opioid addiction medication that can result in some physical, mental, and emotional side effects.
Side effects of methadone may include:
- flushing of the skin
- dry mouth
- difficulty sleeping
Chronic use of methadone can also result in physical dependence, which can make a person feel physically sick if they miss a dose of methadone.
Risks Of Taking Methadone During Pregnancy
Methadone crosses the placenta, which can affect the development of a fetus. This is not dissimilar to the use of many other prescription drugs during pregnancy.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that people who become pregnant can safely take methadone for opioid addiction.
Even so, taking methadone while pregnant isn’t risk-free. Methadone use, even as part of a medication-assisted treatment program, can have effects on pregnancy.
Potential risks of methadone maintenance during pregnancy include:
- neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)
- preterm birth
- longer hospital stays following birth
- low birthweight
Health experts stress that these potential risks shouldn’t deter the use of methadone for addiction treatment in pregnant patients.
If you’re concerned about these risks, talk to your doctor for further guidance.
Why Is Methadone Used During Pregnancy?
Methadone and buprenorphine are the top two recommended pharmacological treatment options for opioid use disorder during pregnancy.
The benefits of methadone for opioid addiction during pregnancy include:
- lower risk of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)
- less severe NAS
- higher gestational age and weight
- linking mothers to treatment for infectious diseases (e.g. HIV, hepatitis)
- improved maternal and fetal health outcomes
In addition to these benefits, methadone treatment can also prevent dangers posed by untreated opioid use disorder during pregnancy.
Risks Of Untreated Opioid Abuse During Pregnancy
Millions of people in the United States report misusing opioids. Left untreated, opioid misuse during pregnancy can lead to severe maternal and fetal outcomes.
Risks of untreated opioid use disorder during pregnancy include:
- severe withdrawal symptoms in newborns
- poor maternal health outcomes
- stunted growth
- preterm labor
- fetal convulsions
- fetal death
Replacing opioids of abuse with a therapeutic dose of methadone can help mitigate these risks and increase safety for the mother and fetus during pregnancy.
Can You Detox From Opioids While Pregnant?
Detoxing from opioids while pregnant is not recommended. Acute detoxification can increase the risk of fetal distress, miscarriage, and preterm labor.
For this reason, the use of medication-assisted treatment with methadone or buprenorphine (Subutex) during pregnancy is generally recommended.
What To Do If You Become Pregnant While Taking Methadone
If you or someone you know becomes pregnant while taking methadone, don’t panic. Talk to your doctor as soon as possible to discuss your treatment options.
Do not stop taking methadone without first talking to your doctor. Stopping a medication too quickly can be more harmful than continuing to take it.
If you’re addicted to opioids and are looking for treatment, one of our trained staff members may be able to help you find a treatment program that’s right for you.
Call Today To Find Methadone Treatment While Pregnant
If you’re looking for addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one who is pregnant, you’re not alone. We may be able to help.
Call us today to find medication-assisted treatment options for opioid use during pregnancy at a drug rehab center near you.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Prescription Opioid Pain Reliever Use During Pregnancy
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder Before, During, and After Pregnancy
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Methadone
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — What treatment is available for pregnant mothers and their babies?