Narcotics Effects on Pregnancy

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Heroin, morphine, Vicodin and oxycodone all fall within the narcotics class of medications. Whether legal or illegal, these drugs all produce an analgesic or sedating effect on the body’s central nervous system.

According to the American Council of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, a 2010 national survey revealed an estimated 4.4 percent of pregnant women reported using narcotics within the past 30 days. When taken during pregnancy, narcotics effects can be debilitating for both the mother and the fetus. Women addicted to narcotics during pregnancy also place the infant’s life and overall health at risk as well.

Narcotics Effects on the Mother

narcotics effects on pregnancy

Narcotics effects on pregnancy can leave you and your baby with unwanted symptoms and problems.

The analgesic effect of narcotics works by slowing neural impulses in the brain and blocking pain signal transmissions throughout the body. These same effects also work to reduce a person’s appetite as well as slowing down the body’s heart rate and respiratory functions. Under these weakened conditions, narcotics effects on a pregnant woman’s body place both the mother and the fetus at considerable health risk.

Narcotics effects, in general, can considerably reduce a person’s judgment and decision-making abilities. This places expectant mothers at risk of engaging in high-risk sexual behavior in terms of contracting infectious diseases. Should a woman contract HIV, there’s a one in four chance the disease will transfer over to the fetus. Though Hepatitis C transmission rates are lower, they increase considerably for women who already have an HIV infection.

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Narcotics Effects on the Fetus

Pregnant women who use narcotics develop a tolerance for the drug just like any other user. The more a person uses the more the body craves the drug. Should drug access become limited or unavailable, pregnant women also experience withdrawal until the next dose becomes available. Narcotics effects during withdrawal periods pose serious risks to an unborn fetus.

When a woman’s body is in withdrawal, this creates an unstable environment for the fetus. Possible consequences from withdrawal include:

  • Miscarriage
  • Fetal death
  • Premature labor
  • Limited fetal growth

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Additional risks to the fetus develop in cases where a pregnant woman uses illegal narcotic drugs, such as heroin. As illegal drugs are often cut with additive materials, any one of these materials can harm the fetus as well as the mother. Also at issue is the actual strength of a street narcotic, which can potentially place the mother at risk of overdose.

Dangers of Taking Narcotics During Pregnancy

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Narcotics effects on pregnant women place babies at risk of being born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome will exhibit narcotics effects in the form of withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Babies displaying severe symptoms will require medication treatments to stabilize the withdrawal effects. While narcotics usage directly affects the likelihood of NAS in the baby, the amount of narcotics used during pregnancy does not increase or decrease the likelihood of NAS appearing.

In addition to neonatal abstinence syndrome, narcotics effects on babies can cause low birth weights, early delivery as well as other health problems. Of course, the overall health of the mother will impact the baby’s health as well as any potential health problems the baby may have.

If you or someone you love is pregnant and needs addiction help, call (800) 407-7195 now to find treatment programs in your area. 

the Take-Away

If you are at a certain level of narcotics usage, your baby may be affected. Your baby may experience birth defects and complications.