Methadone is a medication that prevents opioid withdrawal symptoms and reduces drug cravings. Methadone is considered a form of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and is often prescribed for people who are addicted to heroin. It blocks the effects of opioids like heroin. While there is a risk of withdrawal, it’s safer for pregnant women to take methadone as prescribed than continue to use heroin. If a woman is prescribed methadone during pregnancy, the medication should help with heroin withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. However, methadone may lead to withdrawal symptoms of its own once the baby is born.
If you or a loved one is struggling with heroin, contact Vertava Health today at 844.470.0410 to learn about our medication-assisted treatment. We can help you build a personalized treatment plan that includes methadone, counseling, and other support services.
Taking Methadone While Pregnant
Methadone use during pregnancy can have potential risks, including withdrawal symptoms for the baby after birth. It’s important to discuss possible options and any concerns with a healthcare provider.
The benefits of methadone use during pregnancy may outweigh the potential risks. Research has shown that pregnant women who are prescribed methadone have a lower risk of using heroin, contracting HIV, and experiencing pregnancy complications compared to pregnant women who continue to use heroin. Methadone can also help with the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, which can be dangerous for both mother and baby.
Risks of methadone use during pregnancy include:
- Withdrawal symptoms for the baby after birth
- Slowed fetal growth
- Lower birth weight
It’s important to note that these potential risks vary for each individual and should be discussed with a healthcare provider.
Methadone Dosing During Pregnancy
Women’s bodies change significantly during pregnancy, especially in the area of metabolism and body fat percentage. Some studies found that because of these normal changes, pregnant women who took their regular dose of methadone were still experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Some research has suggested that methadone doses should be increased during pregnancy to combat the onset of maternal withdrawal symptoms. However, other studies have found that introducing split doses helped pregnant women avoid withdrawal.
A split dose is just what it sounds like. The full dose is split in half and given at 12-hour intervals. For example, if a pregnant woman was on 30 milligrams of methadone per day, she would get 15 milligrams at 7 am and 15 milligrams at 7 pm.
Studies have shown that a person’s dose of methadone has no bearing on whether or not the baby experiences withdrawal. Thus, there is not one specific way to take methadone while pregnant. The healthiest choice for expectant mothers is to speak with a doctor about the treatment options they have while pregnant.
Effects of Using Methadone During Pregnancy
Just like other medications, methadone can lead to potential side effects. When taken as directed, methadone can cause flushing or dry mouth. If a person adjusts their dose or takes the drug other than how it’s prescribed, they may experience worsened side effects. Taking the drug other than how it’s directed is considered substance use and could lead to pregnancy complications.
Additional side effects of methadone include:
- Weight gain
- Sore tongue
- Stomach pain
- Difficulty urinating
- Changes in vision
- Problems swallowing
- Mood disturbances
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Physical dependence
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
Women who take methadone throughout their pregnancy may have a baby born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which is withdrawal symptoms in newborns. The severity and duration of NAS vary depending on the type of substance used, how much was used, and for how long. While watching a baby experience methadone withdrawal can be difficult, it’s much less risky than exposing a developing fetus to heroin (or other opioids).
Methadone withdrawal is known to be uncomfortable, even for adults. For a newborn baby, withdrawal symptoms can be especially difficult. Babies going through methadone or other opioid withdrawal should be monitored by a healthcare professional.
Symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome (withdrawal) include:
- Abnormal sleep
- High-pitched cry
- Failure to gain weight
- Rapid breathing
- Difficulty latching (for breastfeeding mothers)
- Tremors (uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body)
Infant withdrawal usually begins a few days after the baby is born but could also begin two to four weeks after birth. Sometimes, a quiet and comfortable environment is enough to soothe a baby’s withdrawal symptoms. In severe cases, medication may be necessary.
Get Help for Methadone Dependence During Pregnancy at Vertava Health
Methadone use during pregnancy should be monitored by a doctor and treatment team. Although this drug can lead to neonatal withdrawal symptoms, it is safer than using heroin while pregnant. At Vertava Health rehab facilities, patients are given nonjudgmental care in a supportive treatment environment.