In general, it is considered safe to take methadone during pregnancy when necessary. It is often given as an alternative to heroin since it is typically safer than illegal opiates or their withdrawal symptoms. It can also be taken by patients to control severe pain. Of course, it should be noted that methadone is classified as a pregnancy category C drug, which means that it should only be taken when its benefits outweigh its risks. This is because methadone during pregnancy may result in a small head at birth, low birth rate, and withdrawal symptoms in the baby.
Heroin usage during pregnancy is quite dangerous for several reasons, which is why methadone is often preferred. For example, needles may be dirty, resulting in both the mother and her unborn baby getting a disease. In addition, this illegal drug may be combined with various other substances, and the danger of overdosing is typically present, as well. While these risks may convince many pregnant women to try to quit taking heroin, the withdrawal symptoms are often considered equally bad, sometimes resulting in miscarriage. For these reasons, methadone during pregnancy is often seen as the best alternative.
Trying to detoxify the body of heroin can be dangerous for both the unborn baby and its mother, which is why many pregnant women choose to use methadone. This stops the body from experiencing withdrawal symptoms after quitting heroin, but does not deliver the same high risks as the illegal drug. Women who begin taking methadone during pregnancy should note that they should not suddenly stop taking it since the withdrawal symptoms may appear immediately, and in fact may even need to increase the dosage by the third trimester due to increased blood volume.
While taking methadone during pregnancy is usually the safest option available when compared to continuing heroin, or detoxifying from the drug, some side effects may occur. Many babies are born with a head size that is smaller than average, though it should gradually become bigger within the first few months of life. Low birth weight can also be expected, but like head size, this should no longer be an issue as the baby gets older. Additionally, most babies will experience withdrawal symptoms at birth, which tend to include a runny nose, diarrhea, and vomiting. Fortunately, these symptoms can typically be treated with barbiturate drugs while the baby eventually gets used to life without methadone.