Should You Take Opioids When Pregnant?

Should You Take Opioids When Pregnant?

Opioids are drugs that are frequently prescribed for pain relief – and often even prescribed during pregnancy. But are they safe to take when pregnant? According to most research the answer is no. However, physicians still prescribe these medications frequently.

In fact, a study of women using Medicaid from 47 states found that 21.6% of women filled at least one opioid prescription while they were pregnant. If your doctor prescribes medication, it may seem safe. But in the case of opioids there can be devastating consequences. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4795985/)

It’s important for you to understand what these drugs can do during pregnancy and make an informed decision. According to the March of Dimes, an organization dedicated to healthy pregnancies and births, there is much danger in using opioids during pregnancy.

Women who take opioids are more likely to experience a miscarriage. They are also more likely to develop pre-term labor and premature birth. Premature birth can lead to health problems and even death.

Babies exposed to opioids can also develop birth defects. In particular, heart defects and spina bifida are related to use of opioids. Babies who experience exposure are also likely to have low birthweight and even be smaller than they should before birth.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome can also be caused by opioid use during pregnancy. This is a condition that occurs when a baby is exposed to drugs in the womb and then experiences withdrawal after they are born. This can happen even if you take opioids prescribed by your doctor exactly the way he or she directed.

Opioid drugs haven’t been studied in pregnant women the way they have in other populations because of ethical restrictions. Therefore, it’s difficult to find facts and figures that would allow the limitation of these drugs during pregnancy.

However, healthcare providers have studied trends in women who report opioid use or who are positive for opioids and there is strong evidence that they are related to all of these negative consequences.

If you are taking opioids, it’s a good idea to use birth control until you are no longer using them and are ready to become pregnant. This can eliminate the side effects associated with opiate use.

If you’re already taking opioids and become pregnant, it’s important not to stop cold turkey. Both you and your baby can experience withdrawal and this can increase your risk of miscarriage, placental abruption, preterm labor, and even stillbirth.

In this instance, it’s important to talk with your physician about weaning off of these drugs and moving to safer medications for pain relief. There are medications that can be used to help decrease your withdrawal symptoms and there are medications that are safe to use during pregnancy for pain relief.

If you’re struggling with abuse of opioid drugs, it is helpful to work with a healthcare provider and to seek treatment during pregnancy so that you can minimize the harmful effects of the drugs on both you and your baby.

Ideally, you will have no exposure to opioids during all parts of your pregnancy. But if you become pregnant while using opioids it’s important to move away from them as soon as possible for the best outcomes.

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