Monday, December 30, 2013

Opium'S Impact On The Fetus

Going cold turkey from opiates while pregnant is not advised

When used by a pregnant woman, opiates such as heroin can result in fetal dependence on the drug, according to the Mayo Clinic. This can lead to withdrawal following birth. Opiates may also result in breathing problems in the infant, particularly if the drug is taken just before the baby is born.


Use of an opiate while pregnant is often associated with environmental factors that, in addition to the drug use, put the development of the fetus at risk, including lack of prenatal care or the likelihood other substances are being abused in addition to the opiates, notes.


A baby born to an opiate addict may have a low birth weight and delayed development, which can crop up later on in the infant's life.

Cold Turkey Not Advised

Going cold turkey while pregnant can be even more dangerous than staying on the opiate, says, which advises that sudden withdrawal from opiates puts the baby at risk and ultimately does more harm than good. When a pregnant woman goes through opiate withdrawal, this increases the chances of a miscarriage. The fetus will feel the effects of withdrawal, which is hard on the unborn infant. However, the odds of having a healthy baby if you are an opiate addict aren't good, so it's a catch-22 situation.


Taking opiates while pregnant is linked to a 600 percent increase in prenatal complications. Babies born to opiate addicts are at greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome.


Pregnant women who are addicted to opiates can opt to undergo methadone maintenance treatment during their pregnancy. Methadone is the only medication that is approved for the treatment of pregnant opiate addicts.

Methadone is an opiate, but it is stable and long-lasting and helps maintain blood serum levels at a nearly constant level, which prevents the fetus from going through the pain of withdrawal, thus reducing stress on the fetus.


Neonatal (newborn) abstinence syndrome, or NAS, refers to the various symptoms that can occur in opiate-dependent infants. Approximately 50 percent of babies born to methadone-using mothers will have NAS, usually within three days of birth but sometimes not until the infant is a month old. Symptoms including trembling and restlessness, vomiting, fever and trouble sleeping and eating, according to These babies can be treated with opiates or benzoidazepines. These infants may lag behind during the first year of their life, but after that, their development is generally normal.

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