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Expecting Mothers and Opioid Abuse

Women with an opioid use disorder (OUD) have unique clinical needs, especially pregnant women. Expecting mothers and opioid abuse require special considerations that premier treatment centers offer in detox opportunities. Women with addiction face challenges that men do not experience, especially pregnant women.

Treatment that offers woman-based detox opportunities and further treatment can increase the odds of success in finding sobriety and maintaining focus on self and family. 

Expecting Mothers and Chronic Pain

Chronic pain remains the primary consideration in physicians who prescribe opioid medications for relief. Pregnant women who experience chronic pain must weigh out the benefits and the risks opioids can present. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seek advice from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) in controlling chronic pain in the case of expectant mothers.

Prescription opioid medications for chronic pain can be effective when taken as directed but always have a high risk of misuse, abuse, and developing an addiction. Expecting mothers and opioid abuse must always be a serious consideration in every situation.

The ACOG recommendations for acute pain in pregnant women with opioid use are:

  • Prescriptions for the lowest effective dosage 
  • A short and specific treatment time for the plan of action

The ACOG recommendations for chronic pain in pregnant women with opioid use are to minimize the use, period. The physician can look to pain management through nonpharmacologic treatments, such as exercise, physical therapy, and behavioral approaches.

Non-opioid medications used in moderation at the physician’s advice are an option. Medical monitoring of chronic pain levels by the physician may deter illicit drug use. Transparency concerning the adverse effects of opioids on the unborn child must be a priority for the physician in suggesting pain management options. 

Expecting Mothers and Opioids: How Opioids Impact an Unborn Child

The best and most successful outcome with options for pregnant women who have an opioid use disorder is to be truthful with their doctor. Opioids negatively impact the unborn child and are harmful to the expectant mother as well.

Being honest with the physician allows for a clear understanding of the significance of medically monitored treatment for expecting mothers and opioid abuse. For the safety of the unborn child and the mother, medications may help to avoid harmful withdrawal symptoms and add relapse prevention. 

The following problems can occur without medical treatment and the continued misuse of opioids in pregnancy:

  • Miscarriage or premature birth
  • Stillbirth or maternal death
  • Poor fetal development and growth
  • Congenital disabilities
  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome 

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a cluster of manageable withdrawal symptoms in infants (NOWS) and is a form of NAS specific to opioid abuse.

Signs of Opioid Abuse

The Centers for Disease Control report data collected in 2019 reveals that about 7% of women were using prescription opioids for pain relief during pregnancy. Of those women, 1 in 5 were misusing their prescription opioids. Lack of awareness of the dangers of opioids on the unborn child, pregnant women may lack education concerning the harmful effects. For those who may know pregnant women with chronic pain, knowing the signs and symptoms of opioid abuse may help them see the red flags. 

Signs and symptoms of opioid abuse may be more challenging to identify in pregnancy but include:

  • Finishing prescriptions ahead of a specific time
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits 
  • Challenges in completing responsibilities at home, school, or work
  • Self-isolation or change in the peer group or friends
  • Mood swings
  • Quitting hobbies and activities that were once essential
  • Obvious signs of intoxication
  • Stealing money, medications, or valuables to buy more drugs
  • Taking a higher dosage of medication
  • Doctor shopping for additional prescriptions

Risk Factors for Opioid Abuse While Pregnant

Women experiencing chronic pain and misuse, abuse, and developing an opioid use disorder, then becoming pregnant, are often not aware of the dangers. Women with certain mental health conditions may self-medicate with opioids for relief of anxiety or other symptoms. Many women with a polysubstance (more than one substance) use disorder have the potential for excessive use of opioids.

Women in challenging situations with lifestyle, experiencing domestic violence, or lack of support in life in general have a higher risk of self-medicating with easily accessible illicit opioids. Family history of addiction is always a consideration for generational substance abuse. 

Detox for Women and the Benefits

Gender-specific detox offers premier quality professional treatment care for expecting women and opioid abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reveals data that shows women tend to develop substance use disorders quicker than men. Drug addiction also causes more medical considerations, such as heart, liver, and kidney disease in women. In pregnancy, hormonal changes can also affect the detox and treatment experience. Also, expectant mothers need to understand how their addiction affects the unborn child and how treatment must include considerations for the unborn child. 

Pregnant women need to experience special considerations in detoxing from opioids. Medication-assisted treatment can help safe detox for both the mother and her unborn child. Family counseling options benefit women who need to address their role in the family and mend broken family relationships. Overall, detox in a gender-specific program is beneficial and offers security and support through other women who understand the women-specific concerns. 

Utilize Gender-Specific Detox Options for Expecting Women In Georgia

It is essential to eliminate any cause or risk for relapse for those with an opioid use disorder, but especially for pregnant women. The Retreat of Atlanta considers the unique needs of expectant mothers who seek treatment by offering detox for women. 

Detox for women encourages success in the beginning stages of treatment with an empathetic, understanding medical team. Contact the center today to start the challenging journey as a sober parent. 


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