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The dangers of taking Suboxone during Pregnancy

Neonatal abstinence syndrome is on the rise recently and the amount of infants born with this condition has tripled between the year 2000 up until year 2009 according to American medical news studies. Neonatal abstinence syndrome occurs when a pregnant woman has been taking opioid related drugs through pregnancy. Aspects of these opioids will travel through the bloodstream making the baby eventually dependent on the medication itself. Drugs such as prescription painkillers as well as illegal drugs like heroin are opioids which can pass through the bloodstream as well as the placenta to eventually affect unborn children.

The effects of NAS begin just a few days after a baby is born. It can begin with the process of a respiratory distress, symptoms of restlessness, extreme fever, seizures and eventually diarrhea. NAS affected infants can also on occasion be affected by birth weights which are considerably lower and a temperament that makes them very difficult to soothe. Infants who are affected by this condition often have to stay in the hospital for at least 15 days or more in order to recover. Hospital related expenses for infants that suffer from NAS are on average five times more expensive than babies that do not experience NAS or other birth sickness conditions. In order for an expectant mother to be 100% sure that her baby will be unaffected by NAS it’s extremely important that she refrained from taking many types of Opioids over the course of pregnancy.

Can Suboxone be used in pregnancy?

Suboxone has been officially approved by the US FDA in opioid dependency therapy. The medication contains a partial opiate agonist which is buprenorphine as well as an opioid antagonist which is called naloxone. Suboxone is commonly prescribed to help individuals wean off of full agonist opioids such as painkillers like OxyContin, hydrocodone, heroin and more. Often Suboxone can be delivered to help an individual wean off of these products without experiencing the same type of euphoric high. Suboxone often has considerably lower side effects than full opioid agonists as well and as a result this can offer a huge benefit to individuals who are working at detoxing from a number of opioid medications.

Opioid withdrawal can be extremely difficult to handle with symptoms of major depression, anxiety, irritability and more. With the assistance of Suboxone it’s possible to reduce some of these withdrawal symptoms for those that are interested in detoxing from opioids.

The process of Opioid withdrawal can be especially harmful to a baby that is unborn. In many cases Opioid withdrawal symptoms on an expectant mother can cause labor to be preterm, improved instances of miscarriages as well as fetal distress which can cause a number of health problems.

Because of the inherent danger that can affect a developing fetus it’s extremely important that pregnant women do not immediately stop taking opioid drugs at a sudden rate during pregnancy if they have become chemically dependent on opioids. In most cases a drug like methadone or even Suboxone can be delivered to decrease the risks of opiate withdrawal and direct danger to the developing fetus. While these are still opioids they pose a lesser risk for the chance of opiate withdrawal symptoms and NAS for the child. Ultimately the health effects of full withdrawal from opioids can be far more dangerous to a child.

The use of Suboxone greatly outweighs the risks of withdrawal and danger to a fetus according to the American College of obstetricians and gynecologists. Buprenorphine can still cause NAS but the symptoms are often far less severe and less risky to a child after they are born. In most cases the symptoms of NAS will begin within 48 hours after birth and peak at around 72 hours after birth lasting an entire week. While the child may have to stay in the hospital for at least two weeks after birth, it is possible to reduce ongoing danger with the use of buprenorphine products.

Naloxone is the secondary component of Suboxone and there are many studies being carried out as to whether or not it is dangerous towards unborn babies. Naloxone has been known to bring about hormonal changes and these could potentially affect the mother and the fetus. These hormonal changes have been published in the Journal of contemporary OB/GYN. Currently Suboxone is still delivered as a method to prevent opioid withdrawal symptoms in expected mothers but there is a relative lack of data as to the use of an opioid antagonist with use during pregnancy. In many cases doctors prefer to offer patients that are not at high risk for addiction or abuse methadone or other buprenorphine medications as a method for winning an expectant mother off of opioid withdrawl symptoms. In most cases Suboxone is only delivered after evidence of abuse such as crushing or manipulating medications in order to experience a similar hide heroin or prescription painkillers takes place.

In the vast majority of instances when buprenorphine is used with expectant mothers it is during her pregnancy with the prevention of opioid withdrawal in which a single action formula is used rather than a double action formula like suboxone.

Why is NAS such a concern to physicians?

If a mother passes a dependence on chemical substances down to a baby it’s possible that a baby could experience a number of withdrawal symptoms from birth. There are also a number of other potential symptoms that can occur as a result of a chemical dependence or opioid use during pregnancy:

  • Increased premature births: many infants that are born with NAS are born premature and experience poor in uterine growth. As a result children are put at extensive risk being born early as well is being borne much smaller than even the average premature baby. This can lead to a number of potential birth defects, health concerns and ongoing health concerns throughout development.
  • Seizures: a risk for early on seizures and health conditions can potentially put a child at risk in the early stages of their life. In many cases children that have NAS are monitored heavily in the hospital for up to two weeks after they are born. This is to provide support for seizures as well as a number of other potential problems during their first few weeks of life.
  • Extensive risks: If an expectant mother was sharing needles with heroin or injecting prescription pain medications and infant will have an higher risk of developing HIV or AIDS if the mother has already developed this condition.

NAS can occur with a variety of other substances as well as opiates. NAS has been linked to the use of methadone, prenatal use of amphetamines, prenatal use of cocaine, marijuana use, the use of alcohol during pregnancy as well as smoking cigarettes throughout pregnancy. If you are an expectant mother it’s extremely important that you follow close medical directions to prevent some of these types of substances causing NAS with your child.