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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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20 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.

2:57 am April 20th, 2017

My daughter smoked heroin straight of rehab and stopped on her own in her early 5th month of pregnancy. Her doctors are aware of her situation and she attends outpatient and see a psychologist 4 times weekly. Her latest measurement weighed in her unborn child at 5 lbs and 1 ounce. She expects her baby mid May. Can her baby still be stillborn at birth and can her baby be born addicted even though the drugs are no longer being used.

12:24 pm April 20th, 2017

Hi Salena. This is a touchy subject and there are many factors that play a role, such as how much and how frequently your daughter was using, her general health state, etc. I believe it’s best if you speak with her doctor and/or gyneachologist about what can be expected. I don’t believe there are high chances of the child being a stillborn. The baby won’t be born addicted because it’s system is cleared of all traces of heroin along with the mothers. Of course, delivery doctors and nurses should be aware of the situation and pay close attention to any unusual signs or needs.

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7:28 am September 20th, 2017

We have read your article and very impressed with your information so Thanks you all for your support. You made a good site it very help us. I am satisfied with your site. You giving us such a good information on Pregnancy Complications And Treatment. Thank you for your support to us.


Lydia @ Addiction Blog
3:59 pm September 20th, 2017

Thank you for the lovely words, test tube! We are doing our best to get you informed.

1:23 pm October 8th, 2017

Please i need help!!! My sister is 3 months pregnant and addicted to herion and is still using.i need to know what is the best option for her and the baby. please let me know what she can do and what kind of help their is for her. she wants to quit but it says quittingcold turkey is bad for the baby and taking soboxone isnt good either. What should she do. please let me know any information that anyone knows on how to handle this situation please we need someones help who has been through this or knows what she needs to do. Thank you

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
5:14 pm October 26th, 2017

Hi Steven. Call the helpline you see on the website to get in touch with a trusted treatment consultant who can help your sister find the best rehab for her.

9:11 pm December 2nd, 2017

I really need help. I went thru detox last year around the same time and I relapsed a few months ago after dealing with tons of stress. Shortly after I found out I was pregnant and I want to get clean again bc I don’t want to do this to my family or my child. Please please any advice would be greatly appreciated. I also need advice on how to do this on my own ad I CANNOT tell anyone what is going on. I have to figure out how to break this cycle again on my own. I have the will and the drive. I just need a safe way to do it. I am nowhere near the amount I was using before. So it should be easier this time.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
6:26 pm December 19th, 2017

Hi Stephanie. Call a toll-free Heroin Helpline on 1-888-988-7934 to get in touch with trusted and confidential helpline professionals available 24/7. You will speak to a sympathetic, well-trained individual who can help you find a reliable recovery program that will meet your treatment needs.

4:34 pm December 8th, 2017

This blog helped me get a better understanding of not only why it is bad to use heroin while you are pregnant, but also just in general.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
5:28 pm December 12th, 2017

Thank you, Hailey. I’m really glad that we have helped you.

10:37 pm December 14th, 2017

I have just agreed to be the legal Gardian to my brothers baby.his girlfriend was using for 6 months Into the pregnancy heroin and amphetanines I think . I have to now go to hospital for a few days so as to understand what baby needs and learn how to look after baby while he is withdrawing. Just wondering if there is any information out there that may help me understand and the best way I can help baby thanks

4:34 am May 24th, 2018

I am 22 weeks and i have been using herion for about a month. I am thinking.of just stopping but i dont know what to do. I feel so alone and i dont want her to suffer. I dont know where to go to detox and have here be healthy. I was using it by snorting it. What do i do please lead me on the right direction

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
1:53 pm May 28th, 2018

Hi Jessica. I suggest that you consult with your gynecologists and an addiction professional about your issues. Also, you may consider entering a rehab program where you will have a 24/7 medical care.

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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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