Prescription opioids are painkillers that a doctor may prescribe after someone has had an injury. As the dangers of opioids become more well-known, women who are pregnant are being advised to refrain from using them as they can result in birth defects or death of the unborn child. While all opioids pose a risk during pregnancy, some are more dangerous than others.
Types of Opioids Commonly Prescribed in Ohio
There are many different types of opioids available. Even prescription cough syrups often contain opioids that could be harmful to an unborn baby. The most dangerous opioids for a fetus include codeine and hydrocodone.
These opioids are most likely to cause neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a condition in which a child is born addicted to a certain substance. Other types of opioids that can cause birth defects, low birth weight, and other complications include:
Fentanyl is a type of opioid that is commonly created and sold illegally and is often mixed in with heroin or cocaine. Illegal fentanyl can be lethal after it is taken just one time, making it extremely dangerous for both the expectant woman and her child. Heroin, an illegal type of opioid, can also be very harmful to a pregnancy.
Why are These Drugs Considered Dangerous During Pregnancy?
Pain is very common during pregnancy. Lower back pain, pelvic pain, and even migraines are just a few conditions pregnant women suffer from. When they do, they are often prescribed opioids. However, women are advised to ask their doctor about safer alternatives due to the risks opioids pose.
Most prescription opioids are considered category C by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This classification identifies these drugs as bringing potential harm to a fetus. However, the studies that have been done have tested these substances on animals only. There have not been sufficient studies done on humans to determine the amount of risk to human fetuses.
Oxycodone is one type of opioid classified as category B by the FDA. This classification indicates that oxycodone did not prove to be harmful to animals in any studies. Like opioids in category C though, there has not been enough studies done on humans to indicate whether they pose a significant danger.
Safer Opioids to Take During Pregnancy
While no opioid is considered fully safe to take during pregnancy, there are some that are safer than others. Methadone is one of these. The FDA has not formally approved methadone use during pregnancy. Still, many doctors use it as a treatment for pregnant women as an alternative to more dangerous opioids.
Methadone can still cross the placenta and have undesirable side effects for an unborn child. For instance, newborns may be addicted to the substance and their fetal heart rate may be affected. The therapy is still often recommended since it has a lower rate of relapse and it reduces the baby’s exposure to the drugs.
Women who are taking opioids and are pregnant, or are trying to become pregnant, should speak to their doctor about alternatives to opioids. In cases of dependency or severe pain, there are other options, even if the doctor decides to change the medication to an opioid deemed to be safer than others.