Pregnancy and Opioid Use and Dependence

Opioid use is a hot topic with a lot of people. However, opioid or drug use during pregnancy is even more of a volatile topic.  I have read extensively on the topics of drugs-prescription pain killers and various opioids- and pregnancy. Many women will argue that they’ve used it, and gave birth to normal, healthy babies without any issues. Moreover, it’s nobody’s business what they do with their bodies while pregnant, it helps with  nausea, etc. This, argument, however, is not valid in my opinion. It’s similar to a smoker who argues that smoking does not cause lung cancer because they don’t have one.

With that being said, I don’t believe addicted women mean to actively harm their unborn babies or fetus during pregnancy. Many of these women need help to be able to reach for support and stay on the healthy path. However, they should realize and accept the fact that they are doing harm to themselves and their unborn baby. There are a lot of resources that governments and private entities provide to support women during pregnancy.

CDC Study and Findings Regarding Opioid Use During Pregnancy

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) conducted studies based in 30 states on opioid dependence during pregnancy. According to the study,  over the past 15 years, the period ending in 2014, opioid use and dependency quadrupled among pregnant women. The numbers vary state from state based on numerous factors. Per CDC, California and Hawaii reported he lowest rates of opioid dependence during pregnancy. The highest rates were reported in Maine, New Mexico, Vermont, and Virginia.

A picture of a woman during pregnancy

While opioid use is a personal decision, opioid use while pregnant affects another being aside from the immediate user. According to CDC, use of opioid drugs during pregnancy harms the health of both mother and child. It can lead to stillbirth, preterm labor, neonatal abstinence syndrome and, in some cases, death of the mother.

Fear of Judgment and Repercussions Prevents Many From Seeking Help During Pregnancy

There are centers dedicated to helping infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. My husband is a doctor and had to deliver several babies with said syndrome. It nearly broke him because as a father it’s incredibly difficult to see little babies going through that. These babies go through withdrawals, and require a lot of medical attention to be able to lead a normal life. Moreover, even as adults, these people are more prone to become addicted to painkillers later in their lives.

So why don’t addicted women during pregnancy seek help? The answer is not as simple as it seems. Many of these women are afraid. There are laws in place that vary from state to state, that would punish them severely. Moreover, certain states might even take away the child after birth. Another reason for not seeking help is shame and fear of judgment. As a result, many women  lie or hide the truth during pregnancy from their doctors, until it’s too late. Seeking help is imperative to the well being of the mother and child. Therefore, regardless of the reasons for addiction, the government must take steps to provide aid.

Conclusion and Opinion

As much as I want to pretend that I don’t judge and don’t critique, the “mother” part of me thinks that these women should do a better job of protecting their unborn children. In my humble opinion, parenthood and motherhood in general is all about sacrifice. From the moment we find out we are pregnant, we as women, make a lot of sacrifices to make sure our little ones are healthy, safe and cared for. I hope all the mothers out there will reach out to get help and protect their little ones. My opinion and viewpoint might not sit well with some of you, and that’s OK. You are welcome to write to me, post comments and express your viewpoint. Please keep it clean and respectful, otherwise, I will delete any rude comments.

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