The Effects of Opiate Addiction on Pregnancy

Opiate addiction is rapidly becoming a problem in the United States. Individuals who use opiates for long periods of time increase their risk of damaging nerves in the brain. Cells in that area that release endorphins stop working, which makes the body unable to stop pain. Endorphins are natural painkillers, and when individuals use opiates […]



Opiate addiction is rapidly becoming a problem in the United States. Individuals who use opiates for long periods of time increase their risk of damaging nerves in the brain. Cells in that area that release endorphins stop working, which makes the body unable to stop pain. Endorphins are natural painkillers, and when individuals use opiates for prolonged periods of time, they prevent these endorphins from doing their job. This is where the body develops a physical dependence on the drug, as it is the sole source for ending pain. This can lead to an addiction to opiates.

Women who use opiates while pregnant are at an increased risk for experiencing complications during pregnancy and birth. It is extremely important for women to talk to their doctor if they are pregnant and addicted to opiates. Attending an opiate treatment program can help in decreasing complications that may arise during pregnancy.

If you are pregnant and addicted to opiates, such as prescription drugs, there is a chance that you and your unborn child are not getting the care needed in order to be healthy. According to one study, it is estimated that 75% of pregnant women addicted to heroin have never sought out prenatal care. Lack of prenatal care has very serious consequences for both the expectant mother, and the unborn child.

Women who actively use opiates during pregnancy put their unborn child at risk for the following:

· Stillbirth

· Learning disabilities

· Delays in development

· Low birth weight

· Neonatal abstinence syndrome

· Behavioral issues

It is not uncommon for women addicted to opiates to also abuse other substances, such as alcohol.

The effects of opiate withdrawal during pregnancy

Abruptly stopping the use of opiates can have a very serious impact on the unborn child. The unborn child may experience many serious side effects, including:

· Vomiting

· Diarrhea

· Irritability

· Insomnia

Withdrawing from opiates during pregnancy can also heighten the risk of miscarriage, pre-term labor, and fetal distress. It is recommended that pregnant women go through withdrawal at specified times, while under the advisement of a medical team.

While the mother is undergoing opiate withdrawal, the unborn child is going through the same thing. This time of withdrawal is called neonatal abstinence syndrome. The symptoms associated with neonatal abstinence syndrome include the following:

· Excessive crying

· Trembling

· Seizures

· Fever

· Low weight

· Fast breathing

These symptoms usually begin several days following the birth. Infants who begin experiencing these symptoms need to be hospitalized and monitored until the symptoms end.

It is recommended that women who are pregnant and addicted to opiates seek opiate addiction treatment for addiction detox. While it is ideal to undergo treatment before becoming pregnant, there are opiate addiction treatment centers that can assist pregnant women in opiate addiction detox, without harming the unborn child.

If you, or someone you know, is pregnant and addicted to opiates, it is imperative that you seek help immediately. Withdrawing and detoxing from opiate addiction, under the care of medical staff, will significantly lower the risk of complications for both you and your unborn child.

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