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Opioid misuse and pregnancy


            As families continue to struggle over opioid misuse by loved ones, there is another pertinent fact that may have been overlooked by the public at large: Opioid misuse by women who are pregnant. Critical judgments may make you feel like you’re getting your point across, but are those remarks encouraging treatment and recovery?

            If you are struggling with the situation of a woman’s pregnancy while she is abusing pain medications, you need to talk about your feelings. You need to know how to cope. Support groups like Nar-Anon or Families Anonymous can help you learn to cope with the situation because they have been or are going through the same things you are. Don’t neglect yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, you may not be there to help your loved ones who are in such a difficult situation.

            The pregnant woman who is abusing drugs is open to stigma and judgment, even from the medical community. She still needs to get help and support. Reports say that about 86 percent of pregnancies in women who abuse opioids are unplanned pregnancies. She may not care about the pregnancy. With compassion, offering reassurance and listening without judging her, you can encourage her to get help and reduce the risks to her baby and to herself.

            Prenatal care is an important part of pregnancy. Women with opioid use disorder need to inform their doctor as early in the pregnancy as possible so the right treatment program can be determined. A healthy lifestyle, good nutrition and exercise as recommended by her health care provider is advised.

            Often, people with a substance abuse problem are also dealing with mental health problems, requiring professional help for her to stay on the road to recovery. She can’t do this on her own. It is risky to try to quit on her own. She will need medication-assisted treatment, medications like methadone and naloxone that reduce cravings and euphoria and prevent withdrawal symptoms. These medications will not harm the baby and the mom can focus on treatment, recovery, and the delivery of her baby. Her doctor is her best source for determining the best route for her to take.

            Consequences of untreated opioid misuse include repeated periods of withdrawal causing problems with placenta function, neonatal abstinence syndrome, stunted growth, preterm labor, fetal convulsions or fetal death, advises NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health.

            Neonatal abstinence symdrome occurs when the mother takes drugs such as heroin, codeine, oxycodone and other such drugs. These pass through the placenta causing the baby to develop a drug dependency with the mother,” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. If it is not treated the baby will be born dependent on the drugs and may go through withdrawal.

            To learn more, access the document, “What families need to know about opioid misuse and treatment during pregnancy at

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