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Using Methadone Or Suboxone For Opiate Addiction While Pregnant

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

January 23, 2019

Individuals who are looking for addiction treatment while pregnant may have to face additional concerns about why types of treatment are safe for the baby. Knowing the benefits and risks of using Methadone or Suboxone may help relieve some stress.

You may be going through, or about to go through, opiate addiction treatment which might include taking a medication such as Methadone or Suboxone. It is natural to have concerns about the possible side effects this medication could have on a current, or potential pregnancy. You may have concerns about harmful side effects to the baby, and want to know if it’s safe to take it while pregnant.

Methadone and Suboxone are both narcotic pain relievers. Suboxone has an additional additive designed to deter one from injecting it, rather than taking it sublingually (under the tongue) as it is intended. Both medications help reduce the need for opiates and relieve withdrawal symptoms while going through treatment.

Are There Dangers To Taking Methadone While Pregnant?

Possible side effects your baby can get directly from the medication include low birth weight, a smaller head, or withdrawal symptoms. These are similar effects that might happen if the mother smokes or drinks during pregnancy. Regardless of whether any of the side effects occur from Methadone, smoking, or drinking, they will generally even out as the baby grows.

Effects of Methadone on the fetus are exceptionally minimal when compared to relapsing and using opiates. Studies show concerns over maintaining use of methadone while pregnant or when attempting to conceive is unwarranted. It is much safer to be on methadone than to suddenly quit or to take drugs while pregnant.

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Taking Methadone While Undergoing Treatment Has Advantages

It cannot be stressed enough, that withdrawal symptoms you might go through if you stop taking Methadone will most likely affect the baby more than the medication itself. They can bring on a range of complications, miscarriage is one of the worst. It is so important to avoid drug use or withdrawal while pregnant that priority is usually given to pregnant women who are seeking Methadone treatment.

It is much more advantageous for both the mother and the baby, for a recovering opiate user to be on Methadone while pregnant than going without. It eases the recovery process. It helps ensure the mother will not relapse. It allows a peace of mind by lessening concerns about addiction while going through the crucial growth stages of a baby.

The Child Developing Dependency And Long-Term Effects

When dependent on any drug, there are sure to be concerned about the baby developing its own dependency on anything you take while pregnant. The fact is, parental history of drug dependency is a much bigger concern as the baby goes through childhood.

Once born, the baby may indeed have to go through some degree of withdrawal treatment. But babies don’t have mental or emotional connections feeding a dependency the way adults do. Because of this, treatment for a newborn is generally mild and involve a short weaning or detox.

There are no known long-term effects on a child whose mother took Methadone while pregnant. And though a small amount of Methadone does show up in breast milk, it is still safe to breastfeed while taking Methadone.

What Is Known About The Effects of Suboxone

At this time, there are very few studies about the effect of Suboxone on pregnancy. What is known is that it has about the same amount of risk – or lack thereof – as Methadone. There is some evidence suggesting a reduced risk of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) with Suboxone, then with Methadone, but the differences aren’t significant enough to warrant switching from Methadone to Suboxone.

When taking Suboxone during pregnancy, your doctor may decide to taper you to a lower dose. They may also call for more frequent sonograms.

The bottom line is, just as with Methadone, it is more likely to be beneficial than harmful.

Observe Proper Health Maintenance And Work With Your Doctor

As with any pregnancy, when taking Methadone or Suboxone while pregnant, you need to take care of yourself to ensure the health of your baby. Ceasing smoking or drinking, eating properly and getting regular checkups to monitor both your health and that of your baby are crucial.

With either medication, consult immediately with your doctor if you feel any withdrawal symptoms so they can adjust your dose if necessary. Do not attempt to change your dosage yourself. In the tapering stage, they may have you stay on a maintenance dosage for a while. As the pregnancy progresses and blood flow increases, your dosage may have to be increased.

The Importance Of Added Treatment

In addition to working with your physician, counseling, rehabilitation, and therapy are key to maintaining your health and that of your baby while pregnant. You need to keep working with your doctors and counselors as far as any cravings for opiates you might have. And you need to have someone to consult with when questions and concerns arise. Contact us for advice, referrals, and peace of mind when going through this important part in the cycle of your life.

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