Fentanyl & Pregnancy: Risks for Moms-to-Be

As fentanyl continues to wreak havoc across the country and more people succumb to the opioid epidemic, it’s important to take time for harm reduction. While fentanyl is typically used to manage severe pain, especially after surgery,its misuse can lead to tragic consequences, particularly for pregnant individuals and their unborn children. Should you or a loved one still consider using fentanyl during pregnancy, you should be aware of the potential complications. 

1. Potential for Addiction

Fentanyl is an opioid, a class of drugs known for their high potency and even higher potential for addiction and abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.  If misused, the intense feelings of relaxation and euphoria can quickly lead to addiction.

Being pregnant doesn't shield anyone from the risk of addiction. For pregnant individuals, this means potentially struggling with withdrawal symptoms, intense cravings, and a preoccupation with the drug that can make it challenging to focus on prenatal care. 

2. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is a group of problems a newborn experiences when exposed to addictive opiate drugs in the womb. According to the CDC, babies exposed to opioids like fentanyl in utero may experience a range of withdrawal symptoms after birth, including fever, rapid breathing, excessive crying, and seizures. 

Even with the best medical care, these infants may face long-term developmental issues and other health problems. They also have a much higher likelihood of developing drug and alcohol addictions later in life. Choosing to avoid opioid use during pregnancy is not just about the mom—it's about the baby too.

3. Preterm Birth and Low Birth Weight

Another risk associated with opioid use during pregnancy is preterm birth. The CDC reports that opioid use can increase the chance of early labor and delivery. Babies born prematurely often face a range of health issues, including low birth weight, difficulty breathing, and developmental delays.  

A baby's weight at birth is a crucial indicator of its health. Opioid use during pregnancy can lead to infants being born smaller than average. These babies might need to stay longer in the hospital, and they are at higher risk for other health problems and developmental issues.

4. Pregnancy Complications

Finally, opioid use can lead to a range of pregnancy complications. Fentanyl, due to its potency, can cause significant issues, including placental abruption (where the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus), miscarriage, and stillbirth.

Research published in JAMA showed that the rate of pregnancy complications, including preterm birth, low birth weight, and maternal mortality, was higher in individuals who used opioids during pregnancy.  These potential complications highlight the need for those using opioids and thinking about becoming pregnant to seek help before they conceive. 

Navigating pregnancy can be challenging, and if you or a loved one is dealing with substance use, it can feel overwhelming. The good news is that help is available. Substance abuse treatment facilities offer specialized care for pregnant individuals struggling with opioid use. Reaching out to professionals can make a significant difference for both you and your unborn child. It's never too late to seek help, and we're here to support you every step of the way. Contact Us

Fentanyl & Pregnancy: Risks for Moms-to-Be