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Heroin and pregnancy: Complications and treatments

Pregnancy and heroin use require attention

With the rising use of opiates in the U.S., heroin use in pregnancy is on the increase as well. The number of heroin users has moved upward by more than fifty percent since 2007 to an estimated 600,000, with a proportionate number of overdoses. Because the average ages for women starting to use heroin and women experiencing pregnancy are so close (23 and 25, respectively), there is an overlap in which heroin use and pregnancy converge.

So. how can women showing signs of physical addiction to heroin start to think about detoxing off heroin? Are treatments safe? Will they be uncomfortable? We review here, and invite your questions in the comments section at the end.

Effects of being pregnant on heroin

Complications for the child are inevitable, whether or not the addicted mother stops using: withdrawal symptoms affect the unborn child if the mother stops; continued use can result in giving birth to an addicted infant. Additionally, health and lifestyle issues related to drug use have a high likelihood of adverse effect on a fetus.

If the unborn child is exposed to heroin to the extent that it develops dependency, upon birth it will face withdrawal, known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. The symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, irritability and restlessness, seizures, sweating, sleep disturbances, and “failure to thrive,” among others. If the mother stops using heroin abruptly while still pregnant, the result can be fetal distress, preterm labor, or fetal demise.  Other complications of opiate addiction and pregnancy include the statistically heightened possibility of lifestyle-related health problems such as Hepatitis and HIV, which can be passed on to an infant in-utero.

Difficult choices you have to face

Drug-addicted expectant mothers are faced with a difficult choice. Hopefully, the additional incentive of protecting an unborn child will tilt the scales in favor of getting clean. The issue for the addict then is finding a way to abstain that promotes maximum protection for the child. Her other concern, of course, will be about minimizing her own discomfort during the inevitable withdrawal episode.

How do you treat heroin dependency during pregnancy?

Professional treatment is always indicated for drug dependency, but is especially recommended when pregnancy is an issue. In fact, treatment centers exist that have special programs tailored for pregnant women. Medically supervised detox is a critical component that ensures optimum outcome for mother and child. Appropriate medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, hydration and nutrition, monitoring for life-threatening events, examination for and treatment of other health issues, and separating the addict from an environment where she has the opportunity to self-medicate are all primary concerns at the detox stage.

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A caring and understanding environment is especially important for a newly abstinent expectant mother, as the temptation to leave treatment and resume drug use is powerful after detox. Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS, is a condition that leaves the treatment patient vulnerable to relapse unless the subsequent treatment phase is submitted to. Counseling is necessary to prepare the addict for the responsibilities of life and motherhood after discharge. Mental and emotional issues, coping methods, and relapse triggers and their avoidance are discussed at depth. Counseling also is critical in instilling an appropriate understanding of the dynamics of addiction and the likelihood of relapse in order to motivate the addict to cooperate in an aftercare program.

There is hope!

Heroin use in pregnancy is an especially unfortunate reality in the already-bleak picture of addiction. But treatment is the best hope for troubled mothers-to-be, and the alternatives—continuing drug use or attempting to stop unsupervised—are dangerous and untenable.

Do you have questions about being pregnant and being on heroin? Please leave us your questions in the comments section at the end. We’ll do our best to respond to you personally and promptly.

Photo credit: Wiki Media Commons

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6 Responses to “Heroin and pregnancy: Complications and treatments
6:31 am January 5th, 2015

Great post . To know more read the below content
Pregnancy treatment

Good prenatal care is important for you and your child. Call your physician right away and routine your first prenatal check out, During that check out you’ll be tested for certain circumstances that could cause to problems.
If you have not yet selected a company, get began now. Discovering the right person — whether you’re looking for a physician or a midwife — can take a while. Meanwhile, let your present care company know if you’re getting drugs or have any medical issues.
Now that you’re eating for two, you may be amazed to understand that you only need about 300 extra calorie consumption per day. Create sure you get a lot of proteins. You now need 70 grms a day in comparison to 45 grms before you got expecting. And while your calcium mineral need continues to be the same, it’s more important than ever that you fulfill it, which is a task for many females. You’ll want to stay away from offered egg and various meats, unpasteurized milk products and mindset, raw seafood, and cool deli foods to prevent taking in dangerous bacteria that could damage your child. Also prevent certain seafood that may contain high stages of mercury or other contaminants. Most prenatal products contain more supplement b folic acidity and metal than you’ll find in a conventional multi-vitamin. It’s important to get enough supplement b folic acidity before perception and during beginning maternity. Folic acidity considerably decreases your child’s chance of creating sensory pipe beginning problems such as spinal. Ideally, you should begin 400 micrograms of supplement b folic acidity at least one 30 days before becoming expecting. Once your maternity is verified, up your everyday amount to 600 mcg.
You also need for making sure you’re getting enough metal. Your metal need improves considerably during maternity, especially during the second and third trimesters.

But more is not actually better — getting too much of certain things can actually be dangerous. Avoid megadoses of any supplement, and don’t take any extra products or natural arrangements without your caregiver’s okay

1:03 pm May 27th, 2016

Please I can’t take the guilt anymore!!! I want to be a caring mother and I need help getting off heroin! All my family has turned away and I have no money, no ID, NO PHONE, NO CAR ETC! I HAVEN’T EVEN BEEN SEEN BY A DOCTOR AND I AM 5 MONTHS PREGNANT! WHERE DO I START I AM SO SCARED AND I DON’T WANT TO HURT MY BABY ANOTHER DAY!! PLEASE HELP ASAP! I’LL GO ANYWHERE I’LL DO ANYTHING JUST PLEASE HELP ME!


Lydia @ Addiction Blog
2:56 pm May 27th, 2016

Hi Ashley. Call the number you see on the website to speak with a trusted treatment consultant who can help you find a program that fits your needs.

8:33 pm December 18th, 2016

i am currently 31+3 weeks i am coming up on my 60 days clean on Christmas. at about 6 months pregnant i checked myself into detox and then rehab. they made me detox cold turkey (from using close to 2gs a day). my baby has flipped and dropped a week ago im having contractions back pain all the works this is my 2nd pregnancy my first is 5. can she just be small from the use and be further along for my lmp due date Feb 1st. or can i still go into preterm labor cause of the long road we both just went through?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
12:20 pm December 22nd, 2016

Hi Shelsey. I suggest that you consult with your gynecologist and a pediatrician about your concerns.

8:06 pm March 27th, 2017

Very informative. How are rehabilitation centers handling this situation though? I’m pretty sure they have a special method for pregnant women since they’re on a complicated state.

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About Tracy Smith

Tracy Smith covers topics within the drug addiction niche being a recovering addict herself. She is thankful to have found treatment for her substance abuse that helped her become sober.

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