Women with substance use issues may find themselves in a difficult position if they become pregnant. Using drugs or alcohol during pregnancy can have many negative effects on both the mother and the child. Women who use stimulants during pregnancy are at a greater risk of heart attack and stroke. Many drugs can harm a developing fetus, leading to miscarriage, premature birth, and low birthweight. Children may suffer developmental issues including problems with behavior, memory, and attention. On the other hand, quitting drug use abruptly can also endanger a pregnancy. This is especially true of quitting opioids. Opioid withdrawal is often severe and might also lead to miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth, and low birthweight.

Neither are these problems unusual. Drug and alcohol addiction significantly increase someone’s likelihood of having unprotected sex, which, for women, results in more unplanned pregnancies. This can sometimes be a wakeup call for women who either have substance use issues, or just like to party. Women physically dependent on opioids are in an especially difficult position, but quitting substance use while pregnant is never easy.

It’s typically recommended that women who are addicted to opioids when they become pregnant start on opioid maintenance therapy as soon as possible. This means doing a partial detox, then switching to methadone or buprenorphine to moderate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. This reduces the risk that severe withdrawal symptoms will cause a miscarriage, but there are some risks to the treatment itself. For example, many babies born to mothers on opioid replacement therapy are born with opioid dependence, condition called neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, and may have to be tapered down after birth. Symptoms of NAS might include tremors, excessive crying, tight muscle tone, seizures, yawning, diarrhea, vomiting, and sweating.

Other forms of MAT are not typically recommended for pregnant women. Vivitrol, or naltrexone, for example shouldn’t be started during pregnancy because it requires full detox, which is what you’re trying to avoid. However, if you had already detoxed before becoming pregnant, there is some evidence that continuing Vivitrol injections is safer than methadone or buprenorphine because there is less risk of NAS. Unfortunately, the effects of Vivitrol and other addiction medications on pregnancy have not been well studied, so the decision whether or not to continue using it during pregnancy depends on your situation. Other medications, such as disulfiram or benzodiazepines for alcohol use disorders are not recommended for pregnant women.

The important thing is to see your doctor as soon as possible after learning you are pregnant. Be sure to tell her about your addiction history and discuss your best options for controlling your substance use while pregnant. Women with substance dependencies require extra medical attention throughout pregnancy to monitor potential problems.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.