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Pregnancy and Opioid Addiction: There IS Hope

You may have been prescribed opioid drugs following dental work or surgery or after having sustained an injury. However, these drugs have a high risk of dependency. Women, especially those who are pregnant, are at particular risk of the negative effects of opioid misuse. If you or someone you love is pregnant and/or becoming dependent on opioids, it’s important to understand the many dangers of continued use, as well as how to get drug detox while pregnant.

Why Are Women So Vulnerable to Opioid Dependency?

The statistics are staggering; between 1999 and 2014, the rate of opioid misuse among pregnant women at the time of delivery increased from 1.5 per 1000 delivery hospitalizations to 6.5, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).1 There are several reasons that women are particularly vulnerable.

Not only do women experience pain differently than men do, but they also experience higher levels of pain than men and are more likely to suffer from pain disorders. As well, women experience pain differently than men psychologically.

For example, women are more likely to worry about the pain they experience than men and are also more likely to have anxiety and depression, which can also lead to higher levels of pain. In addition, women also tend to be more likely to experience chronic pain.

Another reason that women can be so vulnerable to opioid dependency is the way so many are introduced to these drugs. Women are typically introduced to drugs by an intimate partner, where men are typically introduced to drugs by their peers.

Is It Safe to Use Any Opioids During Pregnancy?

No opioid is safe to use during pregnancy. However, if you are pregnant and are also dependent on opioids, it is never a good idea to stop taking them right away. Sudden stoppage of opioids will not help the fetus; rather, it will place it at very high risk of stillbirth and growth problems, in addition to the risks outlined below.

Health Risk of Prescription Addiction During Pregnancy

Health Risks

Opioid use can stop menstruation. This makes it difficult for a woman to know when she has become pregnant. In addition, stopped menstruation can cause a woman to think that she is not able to become pregnant, which can lead to unprotected sex and pregnancy during opioid use. This can lead to continued opioid use, which significantly increases the risk to the fetus.

The use and misuse of opioids during pregnancy can result in several complications during pregnancy. These include the restriction of fetal growth, miscarriage, problems with the placenta, intra-amniotic infection, and postpartum heavy bleeding. Other complications include, but are not limited to, premature birth and birth defects, including spina bifida.

Another significant risk of opioid use or misuse during pregnancy is neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS, where exposure to the drug in the womb causes the baby to experience withdrawal symptoms after birth. These symptoms are many and varied and can occur even if opioids are taken as prescribed. They include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Irritability
  • Poor feeding due to uncoordinated sucking reflexes
  • Poor sleep

NAS can result in a baby spending several weeks in the hospital and can also cause health issues in childhood and adult ages.

How to Know if the Drug You’re Taking Is an Opioid

Because opioids are manufactured under a host of different brand names, it can be difficult to know whether or not you are even taking this class of drug. As stated previously, it is never a good idea to suddenly stop taking opioids if you are pregnant. Below are some of the more common brand names for opioids.

  • Actiq
  • Avinza
  • Belbuca
  • Buprenex
  • ConZip
  • Dilaudid
  • Dolophine
  • Lorcet
  • Lortab
  • OxyContin
  • Percodan
  • Percocet
  • Ryzolt

It’s important to note that the above list is only a small representation of the many opioid brands that are currently on the market. Even cough medicine can contain opioids in the form of codeine. As well, heroin addiction can also cause many problems during pregnancy due to the fact that it is also an opioid.

Alternative Treatments for Acute Pain During Pregnancy

Whether you are already taking opioids for pain management or not, there are several non-pharmaceutical ways to manage your pain during pregnancy. For example, low back pain is a common complaint among pregnant women that can be treated without drugs. Treatment for low back pain can include education about ergonomics, chiropractic sessions, scheduled rest, and elevation of both feet to flex the hips.

There are also other non-pharmaceutic treatment options, such as reflexology or acupuncture, which can help to relieve pain. However, these treatments, like any others, should be administered by professionals, as it will be important to avoid stimulation of areas like the uterus and cervix—this can induce labor.

How to Know if You’re Becoming Dependent on Opioids

Opioid dependency has several signs, some of which are included below. It’s important to recognize these signs in yourself or a loved one so that action can be taken to find help, which should only come from a licensed healthcare provider.

  • Withdrawal symptoms when not taking opioids
  • Taking opioids to relieve or prevent withdrawal symptoms
  • Experiencing cravings for the drug
  • A feeling of wanting to quit, but being unable to
  • Previous attempts to stop opioid use have failed
  • An inability to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home
  • Needing more of the drug to get the same level of pain relief
  • The same or prescribed amount of the drug is having a lesser effect than before.

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the above signs of dependency, it’s important to call a health care provider as soon as possible. Again, do not stop taking the drugs, as this can cause significant problems, both for you and your unborn child.

Breaking the Cycle of Addiction

Dependency on opiate painkillers is a common gateway to the use of harder opiates like heroin. Use of heroin can occur for several reasons, including the high cost to purchase prescription opiates. With increased dependency, more of the prescription is required. Heroin offers a way to get a more powerful high without the cost of prescription drugs.

An intensive outpatient program can allow pregnant women to reduce harm, both to themselves and their unborn child. Also known as IOPs, these programs treat the symptoms of withdrawal to lessen their intensity and reduce associated health risks. IOPs address the mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of addiction for treatment of the whole individual.

Designed to allow you to recover from your addiction as you live at home and meet work, school, life, and family obligations, IOPs recognize your individual needs, and, as such, tailors treatment to those needs.

There's Hope For Recovery With Addiction

You Can Overcome Opiate Dependency

Being dependent on any drug can cause you to feel like you’re all alone, but when you have the right combination of treatment and specialists, it is possible to successfully recover and maintain your recovery for life.

At RECO Intensive, we understand that you are dealing with many emotions regarding your dependency, health, and the health of your unborn child. That’s why our heroin addiction treatment curriculum includes opioid detox, therapy, and counseling on the group and individual levels. We also include education on drug dependency so that you understand why you are addicted and learn skills to help you avoid relapse.

Our 4- to 5-week intensive outpatient program will require you to participate for several hours each day. You will interact with several professionals, including behavioral health technicians, primary therapists, and medical doctors.

All of these individuals work together with your case manager to help you learn about your addiction and empower you to begin your journey to a healthy life for both you and your child. Through continuous holistic treatment and education, your team walks with you on every step of your journey to recovery.

If you are ready to get help for yourself or your loved one, RECO Intensive is ready to accompany you. Learn more about the treatment options we offer; call 1-844-900-RECO to speak with a member of our team today.

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