Can You Receive Opioid Addiction Treatment While Pregnant?

Every 15 minutes1, a baby enters the world suffering from opioid withdrawals.

These withdrawals are devastating and painful. Babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) have to fight for survival from their first breath. They often have low birth weight and heart problems or neural tube defects. Many don’t even survive the pregnancy or are born early.

If you take or misuse opioids and are pregnant, you may be wondering what your options are. The good news is that there are options available.

Prescription

Medication-Assisted Opioid Treatment

Medication-assisted opioid treatment is a method of recovery that is seeing very positive results. Rather than using the traditional abstinence-only model, this treatment uses other drugs to help people along on the road to recovery.

These drugs balance the chemicals in the patient’s body without providing the high that users are seeking. Tolerance to the drug and taking more to get high is what leads to the overdoses that are killing so many Americans.

Some patients take this medicine as maintenance for the rest of their lives. Others use them to slowly taper off their body’s need for the drug until they are free from the physical need to take it.

Opioid Addiction Treatment and Pregnancy

If you are taking or abusing opioids and find out that you are pregnant, you might think that you should immediately stop taking them. In some cases, this can actually be more harmful than continuing to take them.

Rather, seek medical advice. If you are taking prescription opioids, inform your doctor immediately that you’re pregnant. If you are misusing opioids, now is a better time than ever to seek treatment.

In many cases, pregnant women can safely take Subutex, a buprenorphine mono product that can be prescribed by a doctor. Buprenorphine is one of the three main drugs used in opioid addiction treatment. You can find out more about buprenorphine and its many forms here.

The drug methadone is more common and there is more research available on its effects. Using methadone during pregnancy has been found to be safe, but the baby will be born addicted to methadone and will still face a difficult withdrawal period.

Buprenorphine, on the other hand, is not as addictive. The baby will require less treatment at birth, making it a better option during pregnancy. More research is being done, but for now, Buprenorphine is a safer option than continuing to misuse opioids or quitting cold turkey.

doctor and pregnant woman

Seek Treatment Now

One thing is absolutely sure. If you are pregnant and addicted to opioids, you need to seek treatment immediately. This step takes courage, but it is necessary to ensure the health of your baby. Medication-assisted opioid treatment can help you on the road to recovery and being the parent your child will need.

1https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/dramatic-increases-in-maternal-opioid-use-neonatal-abstinence-syndrome

About the Author

Paula Nicola, M.D.
Dr. Nicola is the Facility Director at Renu. She is a trained and board certified medical doctor with specialized training in addiction medicine.