Opioid abuse (both illicit and prescription opioids) and pregnancy can occur quickly with the misuse of prescription medication. Furthermore, illicit opioid use during pregnancy is a contributing factor to congenital disabilities and dangerous physical and mental factors for the mother and, in some cases, can lead to the death of the infant.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates in 2019 there were 14 to 22% of all pregnant women had prescriptions for opioid medications to relieve pain. Increases in opioid usage overall point to a significant problem for pregnant women and their babies. 

Opioid Addiction and Pregnancy: How It Starts

Opiate and opioid drug addictions can include illicit substances like heroin and prescription opioids such as morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. The risk level of having this type of addiction during pregnancy is high for both the mother and the unborn child.

Opioid medications are treatment options for pain relief, and pregnant women may need to rely on them for pain. Misuse of opioids quickly leads to abuse and addiction, with dependence involving the unborn child. 

Pregnancy factors into the equation of pain treatment because physiological changes in the body during pregnancy affect the pharmacodynamics (how the drug reacts in the body) of specific medications. Therefore, the treating physician may have to adjust the dosage of the opioid medication during pregnancy to an acceptable level.

Taking this consideration as a significant factor in drug use during pregnancy, taking illicit drugs without a doctor’s supervision is dangerous. Whether opioid addiction during pregnancy is unintentional or intentional, it is in the best interest of the mother and unborn child to seek detox and treatment for the addiction. 

Risk Factors for Expecting Mothers

The developing infant is at great risk for significant adverse outcomes when opioid addiction and pregnancy are the presenting problems. Opioid medications can cross over through the placenta and the unborn baby.

The CDC analysis in 2019 raised some alarming concerns when comparing their collected data, which accentuates the need to raise awareness. The need for treatment is clear for pregnant women struggling with an opioid addiction during pregnancy.

The Centers for Disease Control published the following statistics surrounding opioids and pregnancy:

  • 6.6% of the respondents report prescription opioid use during their pregnancy.
  • 21.2% of these women say there was misuse, specifically sourcing medication from other than a healthcare provider for reasons other than pain.
  • 27.1% report wanting or needing to cut down or quit using.
  • 68.1% received information and advice on how prescription opioid use during pregnancy could affect their baby.

Chronic pain is a risk factor for expecting mothers who have been relying on opioid medications for treatment. Opioid medications are best for short-term treatment, so depending on other pain elimination methods, especially during pregnancy, is the optimal choice.

The holistic methodology provides breathing work, meditation, and other therapies as treatment for chronic pain. It is essential to find a detox facility offering medication-assisted treatment when participating in opiate or opioid detox programs when pregnant for the best outcomes. 

Signs of Opioid Addiction while Pregnant

Pregnant women can use opioids as their physician directs but must be aware of the possible risks that may occur. Patients must understand a high risk of misuse and abuse or developing an addiction is a consideration in even initiating opioids during pregnancy.

For pregnant women who are already experiencing an opioid use disorder, treatments are available. Signs of an opioid addiction during pregnancy are detectable by medical personnel monitoring the pregnancy.

Poor fetal growth and poor health of both the unborn child and mother are signs of opioid addiction during pregnancy. There are certain dangers of preterm birth or stillbirth with opioid exposure during pregnancy. Specific birth defects, such as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, are not apparent until after the baby is born. Maternal death can result from opioid addiction during pregnancy. 

Typical signs and symptoms of an opioid use disorder include:

  • Misuse or abuse of opioid prescription medications
  • Taking opioid medications in anticipation of pain
  • Excessive mood swings, for example, from elation to hostility
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Borrowing or seeking medication from sources other than a medical doctor
  • Doctor shopping for additional prescriptions
  • Poor decision making

Effects on The Mother

The chance of placental abruption, a severe condition where the placenta separates from the uterine wall prematurely, is 2.6 times as likely to occur with opioid addiction during pregnancy. The unborn child may not receive adequate oxygen and nutrients when this happens.

High blood pressure may initiate preeclampsia, which can lead to complications for both mother and baby and death for the mother. There is also an increased risk of maternal cardiac arrest with opioid use during pregnancy.

Effects on the Unborn Baby

Congenital disabilities and defects can occur during the development of the child in the womb when the mother is abusing opioids. The risks to the infant are many and can be preventable in some cases with detox, treatment, and counseling.

Any medical personnel working with a pregnant mother using opioids must incorporate education concerning the damages that can occur to their child. Some defects can require lifelong medical care, while others put their infant’s life at risk.

Common birth defects can include:

  • Congenital heart defects
  • Neural tube defects (development or formation of brain, spine, and spinal cord)
  • Gastroschisis (intestines reside outside of the body)
  • Glaucoma (an eye disorder with high pressure found in the eyes and left untreated can lead to blindness)
  • Hydrocephalus (fluid build-up on the brain)
  • Cleft lip or palate
  • Clubfoot

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) occurs when opioids cross through the placenta to the baby. The unborn child develops a dependence on opioids, causing withdrawal 2-3 days after birth. A multitude of severe symptoms occur during this time, including:

  • Irritability and excessive crying
  • Jitteriness and tremors
  • Poor feeding and weight loss
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Fevers and sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Seizures

Gender-Specific Rehab for Treatment

Gender-specific detox options for women are beneficial for those facing treatment for opioid addiction while pregnant. Pregnant women may benefit from an all-woman setting for detox and treatment because of the lack of any negativity or misconceptions from men who do not understand what they are facing.

Pregnant women are hormonally more emotional and sensitive. This type of professional program addresses the specific needs of pregnant women going through detox and treatment. 

Pregnant Women Seeking Treatment for Opioid Addiction in Tennessee

There are hopeful and understanding treatment options for pregnant women with an opioid addiction. Women and their families who wish to end their addiction and receive compassionate help during pregnancy can reach out to Detox West Tennessee. Beneficial treatment options are ideal for gender-specific treatment with medication-assisted options.

Contact the admissions office at Detox West Tennessee for additional information concerning opioid detox while pregnant.