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Dangers of Opioid Use During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Posted on 12/17/2018

As the opioid epidemic continues to sweep across the country, more people are becoming aware of the potential dangers these drugs pose. Women that are pregnant or breastfeeding may be uniquely vulnerable to their negative side effects. The dangers of opioid use during pregnancy and breastfeeding may also be passed onto the child, who could suffer from permanent effects. Speak to a compassionate and experienced attorney to learn how you could avoid these risks. Legal counsel could also represent you pursue compensation if your child has suffered due to opioid use.

Risks of Opioid Use During Pregnancy

There could be a chance that anything that enters the woman’s system while she is pregnant will cross the placenta and enter the baby’s system. This may also include opioids.

Some doctors may still prescribe opioids when a woman is pregnant if she is suffering from severe pain. Using opioids occasionally while pregnant will not typically cause any harm to the baby. If a woman is dependent on these drugs and uses them regularly during a pregnancy, the risks may increase greatly.

Any opioids taken close to the delivery date could result in the baby not being able to breathe effectively after birth, which is known as respiratory depression.

Issues with Fetal Development

When a woman is dependent on opioids during pregnancy, it could cause many complications. Problems with the placenta, which may include placenta abruption when it starts to separate from the uterus, is one. If this happens, the baby could be deprived of the oxygen and nutrients it relies on to grow.

Even when placenta problems are not present, there may be a danger of slow fetal growth due to opioid dependence during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The baby is also at an increased risk of being born prematurely. The baby may not be born at a healthy weight and may have to undergo medical procedures shortly after birth. In other cases, it could cause severe permanent defects that may affect the child’s quality of life. In the worst-case scenarios, being addicted to opioids during pregnancy may cause miscarriage or fetal death.

Risks After Birth

After the birth, the woman may also experience bleeding that is heavier than normal. Throughout the pregnancy, she may also develop preeclampsia, which is a condition that may occur during pregnancy and could cause high blood pressure and possible fluid retention. In severe cases, this condition could be fatal.

Like any drug dependency that a fetus could be exposed to in the womb, regular opioid use during pregnancy could also cause the baby to become addicted to the drug. This may lead to the baby suffering from a withdrawal of the drug after they are born, which is known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and may last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. The condition could cause the baby to suffer from tremors, jitteriness, diarrhea, uncoordinated sucking reflexes, poor sleep, and a high-pitched cry.

Risk of Addiction While Breastfeeding

If a baby is born with neonatal abstinence syndrome and the drug is still present in the mother’s body, breastfeeding may actually reduce the symptoms. This could result in the baby requiring less medicine, which could allow them to leave the hospital earlier.

The danger of opioid use to the baby while breastfeeding and pregnancy may depend on which opioid is being used. Codeine, hydrocodone, meperidine, oxycodone, and tramadol could all pose a significant risk to the baby. Women who are taking these opioids while breastfeeding may be recommended to speak to their doctor about switching to a safer pain reliever. Attorneys could also provide legal advice for women whose babies have suffered due to opioid addiction.

Talk to a Lawyer About the Dangers of Opioid Use for Mothers

Opioids are very serious drugs that could have the potential to bring significant consequences to those that are dependent on them. When possible, women that are pregnant or have recently given birth and plan on breastfeeding may need to speak to their doctor about what other options they may have to decrease the chances of harming their babies. If opioids affected an infant, the family may be able to bring a claim for their damages. An attorney could help you learn the dangers of opioid use during pregnancy and breastfeeding and what options may be available to you.