By: Mary Ellen Wright, Ph.D., APRN, CPNP, Nurse Researcher Women’s and Children’s Health for Mission Health

When you are pregnant, avoiding any substances that may harm your infant’s development or health is recommended by your healthcare provider. It is very important to talk to your healthcare provider about any substances, drugs, herbs, alcohol, smoking (nicotine) or caffeine that you are taking prior to becoming pregnant and definitely during pregnancy.

Some women are on a treatment during pregnancy that includes drugs that contain opioids. Before stopping these medications, women should discuss with their healthcare provider the safest method of weaning off these substances during their pregnancy for both themselves and their growing baby.

Suddenly stopping certain drugs in pregnancy can also cause complications such as miscarriage, prematurity and, in the more extreme cases, infant death. Therefore, you and your healthcare provider should determine the safest course to discontinue any medication, herbs and/or supplements during pregnancy.

If you are in rehabilitation for substance use during pregnancy in a treatment program that offers you rehabilitation medications, it becomes even more important to work with your treatment agency and your prenatal care provider. Often the recommendation is to stay on your treatment medication during the pregnancy under the guidance of your healthcare provider to avoid harm to you or the baby. After delivery, it may be necessary to treat your infant for withdrawal symptoms to the medication you were on while pregnant, but this treatment is controlled and monitored for the baby after birth, which is not possible when the baby is in the uterus during pregnancy.

Sharing what substances you are using is part of your care, and you should not fear telling your healthcare provider. It is vital for your healthcare provider to know what substances you are using in order to assure the safest care for you and your infant. If you are advised to stay on the medication by your healthcare provider, know that you are doing what is best for you and your baby’s health, and that makes you a caring mother.

A helpful resource to check on the safety of substances (including prescription medications, herbs, supplements and vaccines plus infections) during pregnancy or breastfeeding is Mother-to-Baby at 1-866-626-6847.  

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