What You Should Know About Suboxone and Pregnancy
For individuals who have been struggling with opioid addiction, Suboxone, the brand name, prescription combination of naloxone and buprenorphine, can be an incredibly beneficial medication. However, the use of the drug during pregnancy requires a number of other precautions as well as for the user to have certain information about the drug that pertains to their health and the health of their unborn child. Make sure you understand exactly what taking Suboxone during pregnancy entails and how you can go about it safely.
Is It Okay to Take Suboxone During Pregnancy?
According to the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, “It is not a good idea to start taking buprenorphine (Suboxone) while you are pregnant or to become pregnant while you are taking it.” Most patients who are attempting to recover from opioid dependence and/or addiction are often encouraged by their doctor to perform some method of birth control if they are sexually active. This is because adding a pregnancy into the ordeal of tapering someone off of prescription or illicit opioid drugs, which is already extremely difficult, painful, and stressful, can only cause the situation to become more volatile. In some cases, though, pregnancy can occur when an individual is already taking Suboxone or a sudden pregnancy can be what encourages someone to stop abusing opioid drugs.
Since Suboxone can help an individual stop abusing opioids and slowly begin to live a better, safer life, is it okay for someone in one of the situations above to take Suboxone during pregnancy?
Though it is not ideal for someone to be taking any risky medication during a pregnancy, it is often much safer for both the mother and the child to be regulated with Suboxone or another type of opioid addiction medication than to continue on during the pregnancy without a safe medication regimen. Therefore, it can be beneficial and even necessary in some cases for you to take Suboxone during pregnancy.
Is Suboxone Better for the Pregnant Individual?
Taking Suboxone under the care of a physician is much safer and more beneficial for the individual than attempting to quit opioids without the help of medication. Buprenorphine is also safer in an overdose situation than methadone, and a certified doctor can prescribe Suboxone in their regular office. The treatment is more likely to help a person stop abusing opioids and start recovering from addiction than if they received no treatment at all. Therefore, in many ways, taking Suboxone is safer than taking no medication during pregnancy if you have been struggling with opioid addiction.
Is Suboxone Better for the Baby?
According to the National Institutes of Health News, “Babies born to women addicted to opioids fare better when their mothers are treated with either the addiction medication buprenorphine or methadone than babies whose mothers are not treated at all.” Because of this, it is important that the pregnant individual takes medication of either type in order to ensure the better health of the child.
What are the Risks of Taking Suboxone During Pregnancy?
There are many benefits to taking buprenorphine-based medications during pregnancy, but it is important to understand that taking Suboxone, especially during pregnancy, does come with a number of risks. For one, babies born to mothers who have taken medications like buprenorphine or methadone during pregnancy often experience withdrawal symptoms, as these medications do have opioid agonist properties. Withdrawal symptoms can be mild or, in some cases, life-threatening. According to the National Library of Medicine, “Symptoms often begin within 1-3 days after birth, but may take up to a week to appear.” They can include:
- Blotchy skin
- Excessive sucking
- Excessive crying
- Hyperactive reflexes
- Poor feeding
- Sleep problems
- Slow weight gain
- Increased muscle tone
- Rapid breathing
In most cases, these withdrawal symptoms can be managed by a doctor after the birth, and most babies are able to overcome their symptoms with no long-term problems. In fact, according to a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “The infants born to women who received buprenorphine had milder symptoms of neonatal opioid withdrawal than those born to women who received methadone.”
Unfortunately, other risks associated with Suboxone use during pregnancy are more problematic. Because Suboxone contains both buprenorphine and naloxone, it is sometimes not recommended for pregnant individuals. This is specifically because the naloxone present in the combination is meant to prevent abuse of the drug and can precipitate withdrawal suddenly, which may be hazardous for both the health of the fetus and of the mother. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that, because the combination is not “recommended for use in pregnant women,” another option containing buprenorphine is possible. “If buprenorphine treatment is elected for a pregnant woman, the monotherapy product should be used,” meaning the brand name prescription drug Subutex which only contains buprenorphine.
As another type of side effect that could be problematic for pregnant individuals, Suboxone itself also may cause some of the same side effects that opioids cause but in a much milder sense. Still, these side effects could be dangerous so it is important that you do not start Suboxone treatment during your pregnancy without consulting a doctor first.
How Do I Know if Suboxone is Right for Me?
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and need to be regulated with an opioid addiction medication, Suboxone may be the right choice for you, but you must consult a doctor in order to find out. Methadone or buprenorphine alone could possibly be safer and/or more effective for your particular situation, so it is very important that you are able to find out all your options before deciding on Suboxone.
Because Suboxone contains naloxone, it is usually not recommended for pregnant individuals over buprenorphine alone (Subutex) or methadone. However, for some individuals, it can be beneficial, but it is extremely important to know the risks of the medication before you begin taking it. Because pregnancy can add another layer of care and precautions to an addiction treatment plan, ask your doctor if Suboxone is the right medication for you or if you may benefit more from a different opioid addiction and dependence medication.