With the increase in opioid use, the instances of pregnant, opioid-addicted women have also increased.
Regardless of race or socioeconomic group, opioid use in women impacts both the mother and child when opioids are used during pregnancy.
In 2019, 7% of women reported using opioid pain medication during pregnancy, with about 25% reporting misuse.
Opioid use during pregnancy is linked to maternal death, and extensive health effects on the baby, including death.
Risks Of Opioid Use For The Baby And Mother
A pregnant woman faces the same risks associated with opioid abuse when not pregnant. These general risks of opioid abuse include the possibility of overdose death, respiratory depression, and withdrawals.
Long-term effects of opioid use a pregnant woman risks include:
- heart failure
- nerve damage
- kidney failure
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Risks Of Opioid Use On Babies
When a baby is born to a woman that struggled with opioid use during pregnancy, the effects of opioids and opioid withdrawal can have serious effects.
A baby that has been exposed to opioids may suffer from:
- stunted growth
- fetal convulsions
- fetal death
Risk Of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
A baby that has become accustomed to opioids in utero may have additional damage when it arrives. A mother that has experienced withdrawal symptoms may have damage to the placenta.
A baby born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) occurs when the baby suddenly experiences withdrawal symptoms after being born.
Some symptoms of NAS include:
- difficulty feeding
Risks Of Opioid Use For Pregnant Women
When it comes to opioid use, most risks that impact pregnant women also impact the child. A woman that is addicted to opioids may suffer from additional factors related to their opioid use.
Risks of opioid use on pregnant women include:
- preterm labor
- poor prenatal care
- social dangers due to drug behavior (jail, violence, extreme living situations)
- increased risk for infection due to sexual transmission/ intravenous drug use (HIV, HPV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C)
Effective Medication For Opioid Addiction During Pregnancy
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) helps to curb cravings and withdrawal symptoms, which can be dangerous for the fetus and mother.
Methadone is an effective treatment in preventing withdrawal symptoms from occurring.
However, medications that contain an opioid antagonist like naloxone alongside buprenorphine have been found especially effective at preventing relapse, withdrawals, and additional damage to the baby.
Getting Treatment For Opioid Addiction
If you or a loved one has an opioid addiction and may be pregnant, help is available. The risks that opioid addiction and withdrawals have on a pregnant woman and child are substantial.
Inpatient programs that offer medically assisted treatments can help prevent relapse and withdrawals.
Both inpatient drug rehab and outpatient behavioral therapy can provide a person with the tools to make positive change, prevent relapse, and better manage challenges ahead.
Call our helpline to get started with a treatment program.
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.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists –– Opioid Use and Opioid Use Disorder in Pregnancy
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention –– About Opioid Use During Pregnancy
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) –– Treating Opioid Use Disorder During Pregnancy