Treatment For Opioid Use Disorder While Pregnant With Methadone

Methadone is used to treat opioid use disorder in a substantial percentage of pregnant individuals.

12/26/20221 min read

Methadone is used to treat opioid use disorder in a substantial percentage of pregnant individuals. According to a CDC investigation, more than 6% of surveyed women admitted to taking opioids while pregnant, and 21% of those women admitted to misusing opioids.

Untreated opioid use disorder during pregnancy can be fatal to the unborn child. The fetus may be exposed to recurrent bouts of withdrawal due to the mother's fluctuating opioid levels, which can impair placental function.

Other bodily dangers include:

  • neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a condition in which a baby is born without

  • stunted development

  • pregnancy before due date

  • Convulsions in the fetus

  • fetal demise

The following are some more indirect dangers to the fetus:

  • increased chance of infection (e.g., HIV, HBV, HCV) in the mother

  • malnutrition and inadequate prenatal care

  • risks associated with drug use (e.g., violence and incarceration)

What is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, and what causes it?

When a newborn develops addicted to opioids or other substances used by the mother during pregnancy, it is known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Tremors, diarrhea, fever, irritability, convulsions, and trouble feeding are some of the withdrawal symptoms that the infant may suffer. 5

Between 2000 and 2012, NAS approximately fivefolded in the United States corresponding with higher rates of opiate prescribing to pregnant women.

Opioid Use Disorder Can Be Effectively Treated During Pregnancy With Methadone and Buprenorphine

Methadone has been used to treat pregnant women with opiate use disorders since the 1970s, and by 1998, it had become the gold standard of therapy.

Buprenorphine has since been proven to be an effective therapeutic option in trials. Methadone and buprenorphine treatment are recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society of Addiction Medicine for opioid use disorder during pregnancy. 1

Treatment During Pregnancy Has Its Advantages. Methadone or buprenorphine treatment improves infant outcomes by:

  • regulating fetal opioid levels and minimizing prenatal withdrawal

  • Linking mothers to infectious illness therapy (e.g., HIV, HBV, HCV) reduces the risk of transmission to the unborn baby

  • enhancing the possibility of better prenatal care

  • enhancing the mother's and child's long-term health

Compared to untreated pregnant women, methadone or buprenorphine-treated women had children with:

  • NAS risk is reduced

  • NAS that is less severe

  • treatment time is cut in half

  • At birth, a woman's gestational age, weight, and head circumference are all higher.