Can You Take Methadone While Pregnant?

pregnant woman

Methadone is an opioid medication that helps treat a patient’s addiction to opioids without withdrawal symptoms. It’s usually recommended for people who want to recover from heroin addiction, but is proven effective in overcoming any opioid addiction. Pregnant women who use heroin during pregnancy can suffer premature births or miscarriages. To help such women, methadone is approved for use during pregnancy in a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program.

However, using MAT medications such as methadone can still have serious health consequences for newborns if not medically supervised. This is because all drugs taken by a pregnant woman can flow through the placenta and reach the fetus in the womb, so the dose must be closely monitored and managed. Let’s take a further look at the effects of taking methadone while pregnant.

Is it Safe to Get Pregnant While on Methadone?

Taking methadone while pregnant heightens the risk of a condition called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). This may occur when a baby is born to any mother utilizing an MAT program, if that mother tries to take methadone or Suboxone on her own however, the baby may be born addicted to the medication because the mother is taking more than the safe, recommended amount. Medication-assisted treatment in a medically supervised program may lead to minor NAS symptoms for a newborn, it is far less risky than to be born with the withdrawal symptoms of heroin. NAS can be treated, so it’s unlikely to lead to neonatal defects and abnormal growth of the child. If a pregnant woman is addicted to opioids, it’s better to begin a safe treatment plan immediately to reduce the risk of birth complications and disorders.

Are There Risks Involved in Taking Methadone While Pregnant?

There are side effects of taking methadone for the fetus. If a high amount is taken, the baby may become drug dependent, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms shortly after birth. In contrast, if the mother takes an amount less than what’s recommended, it can cause withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms could be harmful to her and the fetus, thus the requirement to take methadone or other treatment medications in a medically-supervised program.

It’s vital to monitor methadone use for a pregnant woman, especially during the last three months of the pregnancy. During this period, the metabolic needs of the mother usually rise, and the fetus has reached its last stage of development, doses will need to be carefully adjusted for the health of the baby and the well-being of it’s mother.

What Happens to Babies Born During Opioid Addiction?

A baby born to a woman with opioid addiction can display withdrawal symptoms in the first two days. Babies who are exposed to methadone during pregnancy could experience:

  • Respiratory symptoms such as stuffy nose, fast breathing and repeated sneezing and yawning
  • Nervous system issues, including decreased sleep, being jittery and irritable, and becoming startled due to sound or touch
  • Digestive system problems such as slow weight gain, loss of appetite, poor feeding, dehydration and vomiting

The baby may also experience seizures if the expectant mother frequently takes an abnormally high amount of opioids.

Contact Your Local BAART Program Center

For more information about using opioids during pregnancy, contact us online or give us a call at 844.341.4040 for an appointment. We can help you and your loved ones overcome substance abuse disorder and live a normal, fulfilling life.


Medically Reviewed By:

BAART Clinical Team

BAART Clinical Team

The Clinical Team at BAART Programs is our team of physicians and medical directors within the organization. BAART is a CARF accredited organization and has been providing opioid addiction treatment services to the San Francisco Bay Area and greater United States since 1977.