Is your baby being affected by Opiates in your pregnancy?

Opiates in pregnancy – with the current overprescribing of opiates in the Pittsburgh area and the United States in general, it is becoming more of an issue for moms to be.  Clearly, if you are using or addicted to opiates either legally or illegally, you need to act to avoid hurting your baby.

Pregnancy in combination with addiction to opiates has been described in the past by researchers as “pathological pregnancy.” It is suggested that a team effort in these high-risk situations is crucial and that the ideal treatment team would be comprised of physicians and therapists as well as a proper form of addiction treatment such as an inpatient rehabilitation or outpatient program.

Methadone treatment for opiates in pregnancy

Methadone maintenance treatment is the preferred treatment for pregnant women who are addicted to opiates. The benefits of methadone maintenance to as a form of opiate addiction treatment to any individual struggling with opiate addiction include improved treatment retention, decreased illicit drug use, lowered HIV risk behaviors and the potential of a decreased criminal activity and mortality rate. Cleary and the other authors studied neonatal abstinence syndrome when researching the effects of methadone maintenance treatment and discovered the potential outcomes to be higher birth weights, fewer complications during the birthing process, fewer preterm births and reduced neonatal morbidity.

What other things does a mom to need to consider?

A study conducted at Magee Hospital here in Pittsburgh examined the nutritional status of opiate using pregnant women who were enrolled in a methadone maintenance facility. This article suggests that poor nutrition for this population is typical and attests to factors such as socioeconomic status and mental health contributing to the neglect of proper nutrition.

Specifically, this study suggests findings that upon becoming pregnant, women who were being treated via methadone were more likely to be leaner or underweight but also consume more energy from sweets and less from protein sources than nondrug using pregnant women. This article supports the lack of proper education regarding nutrition for the pregnant and opiate-addicted population in their conclusion that methadone-maintained pregnant women have an increased risk for nutrient deficiencies. Their findings support the need for proper education in collaboration with a dietician or other healthcare professional would be ideal.

How can counseling help with an addiction to opiates in pregnancy?

A woman who is experiencing pregnancy in combination with an addiction to opiates in pregnancy would greatly benefit from therapy as part of the teamwork approach that has been proven most effective. Opiate addicted mothers have a tendency for increased birth anxiety. In addition, emotional stress during pregnancy was correlated with negative effects on the outcome of pregnancy as well as the long-term effects of the child’s development and therefore a warm and supportive therapeutic environment would be beneficial for the woman enduring these obstacles within her pregnancy.

Where can a mom go to get help with an addiction to opiates in pregnancy?

There are a number of local Pittsburgh area resources for a woman who is dealing with curing an addiction so that they are not victims for themselves or their child to opiates in pregnancy.

  • POWER – the Pennsylvania Organization for women in early recovery is located in the East End of the city. POWER’s mission is to help women reclaim their lives from the disease of addiction to alcohol and other drugs and to reduce the incidence of addiction in future generations.
  • In Pittsburgh’s East End, the Homewood, East Hills, East Liberty, Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar, and Larimer Protection Initiative (HELP) is a comprehensive resident-driven initiative to protect, strengthen, and rebuild targeted East End communities. They have an addiction support recovery program.
  • Sojourner House – which is also in the East End of the city is a fifth based group designed to help mothers make major steps towards a better life for themselves and their families.
  • If you are interested in a film that sheds light on the recovery process for mothers check out this link.

You don’t have to go through this alone. I would love to help you reach the goals within your recovery as well as in motherhood. For more information about my approach to helping with issues like this please see my short video introduction. Or you can call 412-439-1416 to schedule an appointment!


* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.

Image Credit Adobe Stock


Covington, S. S. (2008). Women and Addiction: A Trauma-Informed Approach. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 40(Sup5), 377-385. doi:10.1080/02791072.2008.10400665

Cleary, B. J., Reynolds, K., Eogan, M., O’connell, M. P., Fahey, T., Gallagher, P. J., . . . Murphy, D. J. (2013). Methadone dosing and prescribed medication use in a prospective cohort of opioid-dependent pregnant women. Addiction, 108(4), 762-770. doi:10.1111/add.12078

Kashiwagi, M., Sieber, S., Rechsteiner, C., Lauper, U., Zimmermann, R., & Ehlert, U. (2009). Psychological mood state of opiate addicted women during pregnancy and postpartum in comparison to non-addicted healthy women. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 30(3), 201-204. doi:10.1080/01674820601095908