When expecting a child life can get a little complicated. As parents, we make many sacrifices for our children; mothers in particular often make significant changes to their lifestyles during pregnancy. Avoiding alcohol and smoking are common changes, but have you considered changing the prescriptions you are taking? Opioids, in particular, can pose risks to a child during development.
During pregnancy, the placenta acts as a barrier between mother and child where gases, nutrients, and immunoglobulins (immune system components), among other things, are exchanged. The placenta acts as an imperfect barrier allowing certain substances to cross while blocking others. The placenta does allow drugs to cross with different levels of freedom depending on the compound. This ability to allow certain drugs to cross the placenta can be used to treat certain fetal conditions, ultimately improving the health of the unborn child. Opioids, however, can also cross the placenta and impact a child causing negative effects such as low birthweight, birth defects, miscarriage and premature birth, and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). All of these conditions are very serious and potentially life threating to the child. It is critical to communicate with your doctor if you are pregnant or are considering becoming pregnant before taking any prescribed medications, especially opioids.
Over the past several years the American public has seen a dramatic increase in the number of NAS cases. These children are born dependent on drugs the mother uses during pregnancy and face the same withdrawal symptoms that a long-term user would experience. This condition is not only unhealthy for the child but requires longer and more expensive hospital stays to treat the child.
If you know of family or friends who are pregnant or are trying to conceive and are taking opioids, please share this information with them. Together, we can help protect the next generation of children.
Look for our next post where we will discuss how opioids can affect elderly patients.