“Is methadone safe for my baby?” is usually the first question we hear from women.
Pregnant women have been treated with methadone for more than 25 years and neither methadone or other opiates have not been shown to directly cause birth defects. However, your baby may experience some side effects from methadone. The most common are smaller-than-normal head size, low birth weight, and withdrawal symptoms. As babies born dependent on methadone grow, they usually will fall in the normal range for size and development.
Methadone is not the only thing that can cause these symptoms. Smoking cigarettes, drug use, your biological makeup, nutrition, and how well you take care of yourself are just a few examples of things that can affect the health of your baby.
Whether or not you are pregnant, you only get the benefits of methadone if you are stable on your dose. There is no ‘magic number’ of milligrams to stay below. If you feel any withdrawals or cravings to use, make sure you talk to your counselor about adjusting your dose. When you feel withdrawals, so does your baby and that can lead to complications and even miscarriage.
Research does not necessarily show any connection between a mother’s dose and withdrawal symptoms in the baby.
It might seem that the more milligrams a mother is taking, the worse the withdrawal symptom s will be, however this is not the case.
That’s why we encourage you to focus on finding a dose that works for you and not to worry about the amount of milligrams. If you are tapering, most clinics will stop your taper and keep you at your current dose.
Some women ask about tapering off methadone while they are pregnant. The Government’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment says this: “Medical withdrawal of the pregnant women from methadone is not indicated or recommended.” and here at methadoneandpregnancy.com agree with them.
Remember- If you were not ready to taper before you were pregnant, you are not ready to taper because you are pregnant.
Medically, pregnant women have been safely tapered off of methadone, but it’s only been done on an inpatient basis where they can monitor the fetus for any distress. You should never try to detox yourself. This can be very dangerous to you and your baby. This can also put your recovery in jeopardy.
Usually when women learn more about methadone use during pregnancy and see other healthy babies at the clinic with their moms, they decide to continue methadone treatment.
It’s not uncommon to need a dose increase during your pregnancy. By the third trimester the amount of blood in your body just about doubles! Because of this your dose of methadone may need to be increased to help keep you and your baby free from withdrawal symptoms. In fact, an increase in methadone (if you need it) during this time can help improve growth and reduce risk of premature delivery. We cannot stress it enough; make sure you are stable on your dose!
If for some reason you aren’t able to make it to the clinic for one day make sure you call the clinic and let them know you aren’t able to make it in. Do your best to get there the next day as early as possible. If you’re having problems with transportation, talk to your counselor. They will help you to figure out how you can get to the clinic every day.
Many people wonder: does methadone use during pregnancy increase the chance of my child becoming an addict?
There are not many studies that have looked at long-term effects of babies born depended on methadone. The other problem is that there are so many factors influencing drug use, it would be difficult to pinpoint methadone as the ‘cause’ if a child did start using drugs. We do know that there is a genetic component to addiction, so regardless if you are in methadone treatment or not, if you or the baby’s father has had substance abuse problems, the child may be at an increased risk of being an addict or having problems with drug use.
While you are pregnant some clinics require that you meet with the Nurse Practitioner (NP) or other medical staff at least once per month. The medical staff wants to check in with you to make sure your pregnancy is going smoothly and ask about your prenatal visits. This is an excellent time to ask any medical questions. If you have any questions at anytime feel free to talk to your counselor or medical staff at the clinic. Your questions are important and deserve to be answered! Clinic staff may ask you to sign a release so we can speak with your prenatal providers. The release is needed so we can talk with your prenatal provider about your treatment at the clinic. It’s also important to have a release in place so if there are any medical concerns the clinic will be able to assist you.
Medications such as Suboxone, Nubain, and Stadol could cause you to have severe withdrawal symptoms if you are taking methadone.
Be cautious of medications that you are prescribed or given. You should always check with your medical providers before taking any medication.
You should never take anyone else’s prescription medication. And be careful about taking any medications, even if it’s offered to you from a friend or family member. Some people store more than one type of medication in a bottle and you might be given something that could harm you, your pregnancy, or cause you to have a positive drug screen.
All of your providers are here to support you and want to help you to have a healthy and safe pregnancy! Let us know what you need and how we can help.