Finding out you are pregnant while addicted to drugs such as heroin can be very frightening. You may want to do everything to ensure that your unborn child is safe, but the compulsion to continue using may be too strong. You may be worried that your drug use has already caused damage to the foetus but chances are if you stop using now your baby may be born healthy. If you continue to use drugs such as heroin throughout your pregnancy, there is a high risk that your baby will be severely affected and could end up being born addicted to the drug too. So what are the options?
Methadone in Pregnancy
Methadone is a heroin substitute often given to heroin addicts trying to quit the drug. It is often used in pregnancy to help addicts who want to stop for the sake of their baby. While methadone carries a risk of side effects for the baby, it is considered a better choice than heroin.
Common side effects of methadone in pregnancy include low birth weight, small head circumference and withdrawal symptoms. Babies can be born addicted to methadone and may experience withdrawal symptoms once they are born and the physical connection to their mother has been broken – they will no longer be receiving the drug through the placenta. Symptoms usually appear within twenty-four to forty-eight hours after delivery and include high-pitched crying, irritability, jitters, sleep disturbance, and an increased startle reflex. Methadone-addicted babies can also suffer from poor feeding, dehydration, vomiting, rapid breathing, stuffy nose, and poor weight gain.
Addiction Not a Certainty
However, not all babies born to mothers on methadone will be addicted. Jennifer Byrne has spoken about using methadone during six pregnancies and how not one of her babies suffered as a result. Jennifer was addicted to heroin and when her first son was three and she was pregnant for the second time, she decided to quit. She was prescribed methadone to help her get off heroin and says she has been on it for eight years now. During that time, she has been pregnant a further six times and admits to being worried about the effect the drug would have on her unborn babies. She said, “I was lucky that I had no withdrawals from the heroin but I was very worried my children would be born addicted to methadone, it was the only thing I was worried about.”
She said the doctors were not worried about her taking methadone during her pregnancy as long as she did not use heroin. She confesses she is very lucky that all her pregnancies went well and that her babies were born healthy.
Jennifer was filming a documentary for Irish television, Born Addicted, and spoke of how her methadone addiction has affected her. She said, “It’s taken a lot out of me, I feel tired all the time, I feel more sick, like the methadone I’m on isn’t holding me. Then I’m afraid to go up on my methadone because I have to think that there is a little baby inside of me and it’s just hard, really hard, especially when you’re looking after six other kids as well.”
She also admits to feeling guilty for taking the methadone while pregnant and says she is planning to stop taking it soon. She did try to quit two years ago but the withdrawal symptoms she suffered led to her going back on it.
Jennifer is like many other people suffering from addictions, including Methadone addiction. She wants to quit but finds the compulsion too strong. Nevertheless, there is treatment available, and Addiction Helper can provide advice and support to those who want to quit their habits. Call us today to see how we can help you.