Opiate Addiction During Pregnancy Poses Unique Challenges for Doctors

By Staff Writer

As opiate addiction becomes a more common problem, an increasing number of women are becoming pregnant while dependent on drugs. The situation may put their unborn child at risk, and many doctors say they are still unsure of how to handle the situation.

Dr. Craig Smith, a family physician in Bridgton, Maine, told the New York Times that there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the medical community about the best course of treatment for a pregnant woman who is addicted to opiates.

Allowing a woman to continue taking drugs while pregnant can expose the unborn baby to dangerous levels of drugs, potentially getting them addicted before they are even born. However, Smith told the news source that forcing a woman to stop using drugs in the middle of pregnancy can push her into withdrawal, which could have even more dramatic consequences on the fetus and has been known to result in miscarriage.

However, there may be hope for women in this situation in the form of new medications. A study published in the journal European Addiction Research showed that use of the medication buprenorphine can help pregnant women avoid withdrawal while having less impact on the fetus.