When you’re pregnant, you are not only making decisions for yourself, but for your unborn baby. Opiate use during pregnancy can have long-term, devastating consequences for your baby. The abuse of heroin or other opiates during pregnancy has shown to increase the likelihood of prenatal obstetric complications by 600 percent. If you are pregnant, or are planning to conceive, the sooner you quit, the greater are your chances of giving birth to a baby free of health complications. There are many resources available to help you quit your addiction.
Illicit opiates such as heroin, prescribed painkillers such as morphine, codeine, and OxyContin, and anti-withdrawal drugs such as methadone, can all have serious effects on existing and future pregnancies. Potential complications of opiate use during pregnancy include:
- Insufficient prenatal care – Research has shown that 75 percent of all pregnant heroin addicts never seek prenatal care, leading to health complications for their baby.
- Low birth weight – In addition to the impact of opiates on the fetus, addicts are less likely to take proper care of their own bodies and are more likely to have poor nutrition habits which impacts the weight and overall development of their fetus.
- Stillbirth – When a fetus fails to sustain proper growth in-utero, it faces an increased risk of stillbirth.
- Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) – NAS represents the period of withdrawal experienced by newborn babies born to opiate-addicted women. Symptoms of NAS may include tremors, irritability and excessive crying, problems sleeping, hyperactive reflexes, and seizures.
- Inability to breastfeed – Infants who are experiencing opiate withdrawal may be unable to properly nurse at the breast.
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – Babies born to women who use heroin while pregnant have a significantly higher risk of SIDS.
- Increased risk of HIV or Hepatitis – According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, women who use heroin are at high risk of contracting HIV, which causes AIDS, hepatitis C and hepatitis B, diseases that can be transmitted to a fetus in utero.
- Post-birth behavioral problems
- Mental or physical developmental delays
- Learning disabilities
If you are addicted to opiates and are ready to quit, talk to your doctor, a counselor or call the Painkillers Kill 24/7 HOPE line. Resources are available to help pregnant women to safely quit their addiction and minimize the risks to their baby so that you can begin a safe and healthy life together.