Opiate Use and Pregnancy

Pregnancy and childbirth have long been known as one of the most painful conditions that women can go through. For many years, opiates have been used to treat the pain associated with pregnancy and post-childbirth. But due to the addictive nature of opiate-based painkillers, this is indeed a slippery slope.

When expectant mothers abuse drugs, they are putting both themselves as well as the unborn child at serious risk. According to recently-released research data, more women than ever before are abusing opiate-based drugs. According to the data, the number of pregnant women either using or abusing opiates has jumped 127% in the last 14 years, according to Anesthesiology.

According to a study by the Nationwide Impatient Sample focused on 57 million pregnant women who were admitted to hospitals between 1998 and 2011: Opiate abuse and dependence more than doubled during this period. Opiate abuse among pregnant women between the ages of 20 and 34 more than doubled. These increases effect both the pregnant women as well as the unborn child. Opiate-addicted pregnant women are five times more likely to die during hospitalization, and addicted pregnant women have much longer hospital stays then women who don’t abuse drugs. Babies born to opiate-addicted women are twice as likely to be born prematurely, still born or suffer poor growth. Pregnant opiate addicts are three time more likely to suffer a placental abruption (when the placenta prematurely separates from the uterine wall). And there’s more…

Using Medicaid, 39% or pregnant women between the ages of 15 and 44 filled opiate-based prescriptions between 2008 and 2012. Over 13,000 babies are born each year with opiate withdrawal symptoms, which can include seizures, breathing problems, tremors and heart defects. Opiate-related birth defects are typically seen when expectant mothers abuse drugs between the 4th and 10th week of pregnancy. Finally, when pregnant women abuse heroin, approximately 60 to 70 % of their newborn children require at least 30 days of intensive withdrawal treatment. According to Dr. Lisa Leffert, one of the authors of the N.I.S. surveys, “Given the rapid rise of opiate abuse and dependence in these patients, there is an urgent need to understand the link with bad outcomes and to develop interventions to help prevent them.”

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