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Effects and Dangers of Using Heroin During Pregnancy

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Using heroin during pregnancy can hurt both the mother and the baby. When a pregnant woman uses heroin, the drug can pass through the placenta to the baby in the womb.

If a woman who uses heroin becomes pregnant, she must tell her doctor so that the best and safest treatments for her and her baby can be used.

Quitting heroin during pregnancy can help to reduce certain risks and dangers of using heroin while pregnant. Comprehensive addiction treatment for pregnant women typically uses medications to help a woman safely withdraw from heroin. Contact Vertava Health at 844.470.0410 to learn about our heroin rehab center and how we can help you and your baby.

Effects of Using Heroin During Pregnancy

The effects of using heroin during pregnancy can be severe. Heroin is highly addictive. Without professional help, heroin addiction can be tough to overcome.

Fortunately, with the right combination of treatments and compassionate support, sobriety is possible for pregnant women struggling with heroin addiction.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) From Heroin

One of the most severe and significant effects of heroin on a baby is neonatal abstinence syndrome. Neonatal abstinence syndrome occurs when a baby is born dependent on a drug like heroin.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Causes

If heroin is used roughly a week before a woman delivers, the newborn will be born dependent on the drug. Even though they’re dependent, the baby will not be born addicted to heroin.

When a baby is born dependent on opioids and the umbilical cord is cut, the supply of heroin from the mother goes away. When the newborn suddenly stops receiving heroin, withdrawal symptoms, otherwise known as NAS, will likely set in.

The length and severity of neonatal abstinence syndrome depends on the following:

  • How long the mother used heroin
  • How much heroin was used
  • If the baby was premature or born full-term
  • How well the mother’s body breaks down and clears heroin from her system.

If a mother uses other drugs, including other opioids, the intensity and duration of NAS may change.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Symptoms

Symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome typically begin one to three days after a baby is born. However, they may take up to 10 days to appear.

Babies with NAS can still have drugs in their system when they’re born. Neonatal abstinence syndrome can cause a baby to experience painful and even dangerous withdrawal symptoms shortly after they’re born.

Some symptoms of NAS, such as diarrhea, difficulty sleeping, sweating, and vomiting, resemble heroin withdrawal symptoms in adults. Others, like excessive crying or difficulty feeding, are specific to babies.

Symptoms of a baby with heroin neonatal abstinence syndrome include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Fever
  • High-pitched crying
  • Irritability
  • Slow weight gain
  • Tremors

In the most severe of cases, neonatal abstinence syndrome could cause seizures or death.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome can also increase the risk of jaundice. Because of these and other complications, a baby with NAS will likely need specialized medical care.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Treatment

Because NAS can take a week or more to appear, a baby who is at risk will likely be monitored for up to one week in a hospital. In severe cases, a baby may need a more extended hospital stay or stay in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU).

Infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome are frequently treated with medications that help them safely withdraw, such as a morphine taper. Research has also found that buprenorphine combined with naloxone could be a beneficial treatment at this time.

Research also suggests that breastfeeding, swaddling, and rooming-in, or when the newborn stays in the room with the mother after birth, may decrease the severity of NAS symptoms.

Additional Dangerous Effects of Heroin Use While Pregnant

If a pregnant woman quits heroin cold turkey or without gradually tapering off opioids, her baby could die. Using heroin while pregnant may also cause miscarriage or stillbirth.

The risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is higher in babies who are exposed to heroin during pregnancy as well.

Taking opioids like heroin during pregnancy can also cause congenital disabilities in the brain, spinal cord, or spine. It may also result in heart defects or a congenital disability in the newborn’s abdomen called gastroschisis.

Additional dangers and side effects of heroin use during pregnancy include:

  • Fetal convulsions
  • Low birth weight
  • Placental abruption
  • Premature birth (preterm delivery)
  • Stunted growth

Pregnant women who use heroin may become malnourished or receive inadequate prenatal care, potentially jeopardizing their baby’s health and wellness even more.

Heroin use can increase a woman’s risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C. A woman who is HIV positive could transmit the virus to their baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.

Women who are addicted to heroin face other dangers that can harm their unborn or newborn baby as well, including incarceration and violence.

If the mother doesn’t get the help she needs to get sober; the dangers of using heroin while breastfeeding could continue jeopardizing a child’s health and safety.

Discover the Life You Deserve at Vertava Health

At Vertava Health, we understand what it takes to recover from opioid addiction. Our team of experienced professionals will help you manage your withdrawal symptoms, reduce your risk of relapse, and navigate the emotional ups and downs of recovery.

If you would like to learn more about our programs and services, you can contact us at 844.470.0410. Let us help you attain the healthy life you deserve.