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Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women and Methadone

pregnant woman.

Opioid use before and during pregnancy has increased dramatically in the last few years just like in the general population. The good news is that mothers with opioid use disorder can have a healthy pregnancy if managed effectively during this time. Learning more about pregnant and breastfeeding women and methadone can help keep more mothers and babies safe and healthy.

What Is Opioid Use Disorder?

Opioid use disorder, or OUD, is defined as a cycle of tolerance, craving, the inability to control its use, and continuing its use regardless of the negative consequences. It is a chronic disease which is treatable and can be managed with certain medications, behavioral therapy, and support during recovery.

Substance Abuse Is a Universal Problem

Substance abuse disorder affects women across all racial and ethnic groups whether they live in cities or rural areas. Screening for substance abuse should be performed on the very first prenatal visit to shine light on the problem.

It is frightening to be pregnant and struggling with a substance abuse disorder like opioids. What should be a happy and fulfilling time can be overshadowed by worrying about the health of the baby and the mother.

Methadone for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women With OUD

Methadone has been the standard of care since the 1970s. It is a drug that can help and is recommended by the CDC and other experts. It is commonly used to treat OUD during pregnancy to help improve pregnancy outcomes for both mother and baby.

Stopping opioids suddenly during pregnancy, including methadone, can cause negative consequences like relapse, overdosing, death of the fetus, preterm labor, and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). In fact, even changing the dose without proper medical advice can be harmful.

Misusing Opioids During Pregnancy

Any opioid can be misused, including methadone. The misuse of methadone during a woman’s pregnancy can be extremely dangerous for both the fetus and mother. Pregnant women need regular follow-up visits from a treatment center like Reliance Treatment Center of Statesboro who are experienced in managing OUD during pregnancy.

Coordination of Care

It is essential that healthcare providers and pregnant women with OUD work together to manage medical care during pregnancy and after birth. Coordination of care between an OBGYN and a specialist with expertise in opioid use is important for pregnant women with OUD.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, in babies can follow methadone treatments. In this case coordination with the pediatric care team can make sure infants born to women with OUD are monitored and get any appropriate care should they begin to notice symptoms of NAS.

Methadone While Breastfeeding and After Birth

Breastfeeding is normally recommended in babies with NAS except in certain situations:

  • If the mother is using illicit drugs
  • If the mother is using more than one drug
  • If the mother is HIV positive

A Plan of Safe Care should be followed for families with an infant suffering from NAS. This is to safely care for the baby and link the family with needed services.

It is also recommended that a woman with OUD continue treatment with methadone after the baby is born. The plan about when to stop medication for OUD should be made together with the woman’s healthcare team. Some can continue medication as long as needed, or it can be slowly reduced in case of relapse.

Contact Reliance Treatment Center of Statesboro at (912) 489-7827 with any additional questions about opioid use disorder, additional services, and how to care for yourself and your baby. You can also request an appointment through our secure online form.