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Opioid Use Disorder and Pregnancy

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Post from a message board from Kylah:           

Hi. I just found out last night that I am pregnant. I am guessing about 5 weeks. I have been on 16 mg of Sub for 3 weeks now. Weeks before that I was taking between 15 and 60 g of Percocet daily. Does anyone know what effect this could have on the baby? … I’m really nervous that I could hurt the baby if I stay on Sub, if I haven’t already.


Kylah, if you are pregnant and have Opioid Use Disorder (OUD), it can be scary, but reaching out to a health care professional is the best thing you can do.


For pregnant women, doctors usually prescribe Buprenorphine (Subutex) or Methadone as part of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) that includes behavioral therapy and counseling. Suboxone contains Buprenorphine and Naloxone. Generally, it is not recommended because Naloxone can cause stress to the unborn child.


pregnant-womanOne of the advantages of Methadone is that you can begin taking it within 6-8 hours of the last ingestion. It might be a little longer for longer acting opiates. One of the disadvantages is that you must visit a Methadone Clinic every day to get your dosage.


One of the disadvantages of Buprenorphine is that you must experience mild to moderate withdrawal for a short period of time before you begin taking it – usually 12-16 hours after ingestion. The advantage is that you can take it as part of a closely monitored outpatient program where you can also receive additional treatments such as group, family and individual counseling.


According to The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a baby born to a woman using opioids during pregnancy may experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms, called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) can include:


  • Shaking and tremors
  • Poor feeding or sucking
  • Crying
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Sleep problems


Not all babies will go through withdrawal. If they do, swaddling, breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact are highly encouraged. Sometimes medications with dosages that are decreased over time can help babies with NAS feel better. NAS usually lasts days or weeks and there are no known lasting physical or intellectual issues with the child.


Research has shown that opioid replacement medication does not cause birth defects. Missing or decreasing doses of Methadone or Buprenorphine can increase the risk of miscarriage. In fact, dose requirements tend to increase as the pregnancy progresses.


For additional care and help information for substance use, dependency and addiction while pregnant, please contact symetriarecovery.com 





Dale Willenbrink
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