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Effects of Suboxone Use on Pregnant Women

couple holding pregnant belly after successfully getting clean with help of suboxoneSuboxone is a vital treatment for many clients who are in recovery from opioid addiction.

According to statistics released by CVS pharmacy, a majority of individuals – 56.96 percent to be exact – who use Suboxone are between the ages of 20 and 40. These individuals are of childbearing age, so it’s reasonable to postulate that some may be pregnant. As a result, pregnant women may wonder if Suboxone will harm their unborn child and what happens if they stop taking the drug during pregnancy.

Is Suboxone an Opioid?

Suboxone is a combination medication consisting of buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is an opiate that works on the opioid receptors in the brain. Naloxone is an opiate antagonist that blocks the effects of the opiate. Together, they satisfy the brain’s craving for opiates without producing a euphoric feeling, and the presence of naloxone discourages attempts to abuse burprenorphine.

Suboxone comes in film or pill form. It is prescribed to patients who have become addicted to opioids, such as prescription painkillers or heroin.

Is It Safe during Pregnancy?

According to the prescribing information provided by Suboxone’s manufacturer Indivior, Inc., patients who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant should alert their obstetrician immediately. There is the possibility of the child experiencing neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS) due to Suboxone use by the mother. When the obstetrician is made aware of the Suboxone use, they can manage the possibility of NOWS and will know to watch for symptoms of the condition. The doctor will then be able to take the necessary precautions during the woman’s pregnancy and when the baby is born. Even when a newborn does exhibit symptoms of NOWS, it is possible to treat the child, so the infant does not suffer.

Generally, if a woman is taking Suboxone during pregnancy, her doctor will monitor her and her baby’s development carefully. Oftentimes, the pregnancy will be considered high risk as a result.

For instance, the pregnant woman may have extra ultrasounds and regular fetal non-stress tests to ensure heart function and oxygen levels are normal.

What Do the Experts Say about Suboxone during Pregnancy?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a subdivision of the National Institutes of Health, indicated a clinical trial found the opioid buprenorphine is a safe and effective treatment for opioid dependency during pregnancy, especially in contrast to methadone. The study revealed infants born to mothers on either medication had similar results, and the complications to the mother during pregnancy were similar. Moreover, of the infants who suffered NOWS, the ones whose mother took Suboxone had milder symptoms of the condition. Several women who participated became pregnant a second time and used the opposite medication. The results showed the mother’s health during pregnancy was similar, but the infants born to mothers on Suboxone had milder NOWS symptoms.

Can a Pregnant Woman Stop Taking Suboxone?

Only a doctor can determine if a pregnant woman should stop taking the drug during pregnancy since each case is different. It is possible that the stress of stopping Suboxone may harm the unborn child more than continued use. In these instances, the benefits outweigh the potential risks. Additionally, stopping the drug may stress the mother, which can affect the baby. In some cases, it may even lead to a miscarriage. Switching to another medication has the possibility to cause a miscarriage as well.

Ultimately, the decision to continue taking Suboxone while pregnant should be made by the prescribing doctor and the obstetrician in consultation with the patient.