Methadone Use and Pregnancy
What should I know about methadone use and pregnancy? Methadone is an opioid used to treat opioid addiction, primarily heroin. Methadone use is controversial because many opponents believe it is simply substituting one drug for another. However, according to the National Institutes of Health, methadone has been proven to reduce heroin use, criminal behavior, infectious diseases (such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis) and mortality.
Whether or not you should use it during pregnancy depends on many factors, all of which should be evaluated by an experienced medical professional. Some doctors say it is okay to use if the benefits of methadone outweigh the risks—they think it is more important that the woman get clean from heroin and calculate the potential risks of using methadone to help her.
Potential dangers of using methadone while pregnant exist, however, and may include:
- Increased birth weight.
- Longer gestational periods (which may increase the odds of complications).
- Possible transmission of the methadone to the developing fetus, which could lead to vision problems in the child.
Some dangers persist after the baby is born and the mother breastfeeds:
- Transmitting methadone to the child through breastmilk.
- Behavioral or physical changes in the baby once the mother weans.
Is Methadone Safe for Pregnant Women?
Methadone can be used during pregnancy if a medical professional feels that the benefits outweigh the risks. According to the National Institutes of Health, it is often much better to have the pregnant mother on methadone than continuing her heroin habit. Heroin use during pregnancy can cause preterm labor and babies with low birth weight and development delays. Methadone maintenance, on the other hand, results in increased birth weight and gestational periods. In addition, the fetuses are not exposed to infectious diseases spread by needle sharing, which is common among heroin users.
However, methadone use during pregnancy is not without risks. Methadone does enter the placenta and can cause dependence in the fetus. Because of an increase in metabolism during pregnancy, higher doses of methadone are often needed in the third trimester of pregnancy. Therefore, a medical professional should be monitoring the heroin user during pregnancy to ensure that the proper doses are being taken. Too much methadone can cause dependence in the unborn baby, while too little can cause the mother to relapse or suffer from withdrawal symptoms, both which can be harmful to the fetus.
In addition, an April 2010 article from BBC News suggests that methadone use during pregnancy can cause vision problems in unborn babies. In a small study of 20 babies, 95 percent had vision problems and approximately 25 percent had developmental issues of a serious nature. The babies had a harder time seeing fine detail than their peers. Some also had nystagmus, which is involuntary eye shaking. There were also eye problems that affected the brain.
However, the study could be considered inconclusive, as it was reported that many of the babies’ mothers also abused drugs while pregnant. Nevertheless, babies who are born to mothers who used methadone while pregnant do have a higher risk of suffering from withdrawal symptoms. In any case, it is important for heroin users to seek medical help in the best residential inpatient addiction treatment center during pregnancy to determine the best course of action.
Methadone Use While Breastfeeding
Methadone can enter the baby’s breast milk and although it has some benefits, it carries some risks as well. According to Drugs.com, breastfeeding mothers who use methadone should be counseled about the following:
- Methadone does pass through breast milk.
- The baby can become addicted to the methadone and experience withdrawal symptoms when breastfeeding stops.
- The baby needs to be weaned off breast milk slowly.
- It is important not to use other drugs while breastfeeding, as they can pass into the milk and cause serious effects to the baby.
- If starting methadone or changing the dose while breastfeeding, it is important to monitor the baby for any behavior changes
Get Addiction Help Today
Methadone is often given to those battling heroin addiction. Although methadone is relatively safe when used as directed, nobody wants to stay on methadone forever. Let us help you find a treatment option so you can stay off all drugs for the long term and protect your baby in the process. Call us today for help. We can discuss various recovery options in your area.