How Heroin During Pregnancy Affects Both Mother and Baby

heroin during pregnancy

Heroin is an incredibly addictive illegal street drug. It is derived from morphine, which comes from the opium poppy plant. On the street, heroin is sold as either a brown or white powder or black tar heroin that users smoke, inject, or snort. It is incredibly addictive and harmful to the user’s health. Sadly, many women become pregnant while using heroin. While heroin is detrimental to the mother’s health, it is even worse for the developing fetus. Using heroin during pregnancy can indirectly harm the fetus by its negative impact on the mother’s health, or it can directly affect the fetus.

Effects on the Mother When Using Heroin During Pregnancy

Pregnant women using heroin are at greater-than-normal risk for lifestyle problems that can affect the growing baby, such as:

  • Malnutrition
  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Infections, such as HIV or hepatitis
  • Depression
  • Domestic violence
  • Relationship problems
  • Self-harm
  • Criminal activity
  • Poor prenatal care

They carry a higher risk for pregnancy complications such as:

  • Bleeding during pregnancy
  • Sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and hepatitis
  • Respiratory failure
  • Preeclampsia

Effects on the Developing Fetus

Heroin passes through the placenta to the unborn child, increasing many health risks to the fetus and raising the possibility of heroin dependence in the fetus. Heroin use during pregnancy can cause:

  • Increased risk of miscarriage: loss of baby before 20 weeks in utero
  • Increased risk of stillbirth: loss of baby after 20 weeks in utero
  • Placental abruption: separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus. This condition can cause massive bleeding and can be fatal for the mother or child.
  • Pre-term birth: birth before 37 weeks in utero
  • Low birth weight: under 5.5 lbs.
  • Birth defects: a change in shape or function in one or more body parts
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): unexplained death of the baby before one year of age
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Infants who become dependent on heroin during pregnancy may experience Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) at birth. NAS is withdrawal for the baby, who no longer receives heroin via the placenta from the mother. The onset of NAS typically takes place in the first 1-3 days after birth but may take place up to one week after delivery. Symptoms include:

  • Excessive crying
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Reduced ability to breastfeed
  • Blotchy, mottled skin
  • Seizures
  • Slow weight gain
  • Tremors
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Death

Babies with NAS are hospitalized and treated with medication, usually morphine, to relieve symptoms. The babies are then weaned off of opioids until they are fully detoxified.

Long-Term Effects of Heroin During Pregnancy

Children exposed to heroin in the womb are more likely to have behavioral disorders, difficulties with concentration and attention, hyperactivity, aggressiveness, and a lack of social inhibition.

Treatment When Using Heroin During Pregnancy

While it is critical for a pregnant woman to stop using heroin, it is actually dangerous, and potentially fatal, for her unborn child if she stops cold turkey. Doctors suspect that when the baby is cut off from heroin, it becomes hyperactive, then oxygen-deprived, and that may cause death. For this reason, pregnant mothers using heroin should seek medical help instead of trying to quit heroin on their own. A combination of medication-assisted treatment and counseling can help pregnant women quit heroin. While Methadone and buprenorphine treatments can be used during pregnancy, both carry high risks to the mother and child, and it is important to know these before using this method of therapy.

If you are pregnant and struggling with heroin addiction, or know someone who is, help is available. Call Choices Recovery to stop using heroin now.

Are You Aware of the Dangers of Heroin Use During Pregnancy?

Heroin use during pregnancy

Being pregnant is one of life’s many blessings. The nine months a baby spends in the womb are imperative for staying healthy. These nine months are vital for the child’s life. Anything the mother takes in her body can have an effect on the baby. Heroin use during pregnancy endangers the unborn baby and can cause the child to have problems for its entire life.

Problems Caused by Heroin Use During Pregnancy

  • Birth defects. These are health conditions that are present at birth. child change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. They can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops, or in how the body works.
  • Placental abruption. Placental abruption is a serious condition in which the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus before birth. The placenta supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. Placental abruption can cause massive bleeding and can be deadly for both mother and baby.
  • Premature birth. Premature birth is a birth that happens too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Low birthweight. When a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces it is determined to be low birthweight.
  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome (also called NAS). NAS happens when a baby is exposed to a drug in the womb before birth and then goes through drug withdrawal after birth.
  • Stillbirth. When a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy, it is called a stillbirth.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (also SIDS). SIDS is the unexplained death of a baby younger than one year.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Heroin use during pregnancy can cause neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS occurs when heroin passes through the placenta to the fetus during pregnancy, causing the baby to become dependent along with the mother. Symptoms include excessive crying, fever, irritability, seizures, slow weight gain, tremors, diarrhea, vomiting, and possibly death. NAS requires hospitalization and treatment with medication (often morphine) to relieve symptoms; the medication is gradually tapered off until the baby adjusts to being opioid-free. Methadone maintenance combined with prenatal care and a comprehensive drug treatment program can improve many of the outcomes associated with untreated heroin use for both the infant and mother, although infants exposed to methadone during pregnancy typically require treatment for NAS as well. The abuse of heroin during pregnancy can also cause premature birth, birth defects, and stillbirth.

Although heroin use during pregnancy is extremely dangerous, it is even more dangerous just to stop the heroin abuse alone. If someone wants to halt the abuse, it is important to get help from a doctor. Not only does the mother become addicted the baby she is carrying becomes addicted as well, and immediately stopping could cause harm to the mother and the baby and possible death.

Stopping Heroin Use During Pregnancy

Many women attempt to stop using heroin on their own, but when they do, they develop unpleasant symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Involuntary jerking muscles
  • Queasiness

In addition to these symptoms, you might also feel a relentless desire to use heroin again. These cravings could lead you back to drug use, even if you never intended to use the drug again to protect your baby.

If you are pregnant and using heroin, you need to get help now. This is not something that you can take care of on your own. If you try to go “cold turkey” and quit drugs too quickly, you can cause the death of your baby. Scientists believe this occurs because the baby suddenly becomes hyperactive, then oxygen-deprived. For this reason, doctors usually withdraw mothers from heroin after the baby is born, or stop the heroin use during pregnancy very gradually, sometimes by using a replacement drug like methadone.

Your heroin use puts you at risk for some serious health conditions. For example, you have a 50 percent chance of developing heart disease, anemia, diabetes, pneumonia, and hepatitis during your pregnancy. These are much higher odds than the average mother faces. Heroin slows the growth of your child both during and after pregnancy. If you do not get medical care, it is four times more likely that your baby will die during your pregnancy or shortly after being born. The baby will simply be too small to survive.

If you or someone you know is abusing heroin pregnant or not, it is very important to get medical help right away! Do not hesitate to call for help today!

10 Factors That Can Affect Heroin Relapse



Worrying about relapsing on heroin while in recovery can be very scary. You have finally gotten help and have begun your recovery journey and are worried about relapsing. Having that constant worry is normal, and the feeling of being able to avoid relapsing will become very rewarding.

What is A Relapse

A relapse can be defined as to fall or slide back into a former state. When a substance abuser relapses, it means that they have returned to using alcohol or drugs after a period of being sober. A relapse trigger is an event that gives the individual the justification to return to this behavior. In many instances this person will have been just looking for an excuse to relapse, and the trigger provided this excuse.

10 Factors That Can Affect Heroin Relapse


Beginning a new sober life can become challenging. You have all these expectations of how you want your new life to be and how it should be. But the reality is, it’s going to take some time and work to get to those expectations. The journey to get to the point you wish, can be a rough one and can get stressful. An addict is used to taking stress and frustrations out by abusing drugs. That is one new thing that must be dealt with differently now on the path for a new life.

Being full of self-pity

Now that you are finally sober, you are beginning to see things much clearer. You may begin to realize all the horrible things you have done during your addiction and all the people you have hurt. You may even begin to realize how low your life came while suffering from addiction. During this time of feelings, it is most important to remember the new path you have chosen. The fact that you are now sober and clear minded it a reward to top all the past choices that affected you until now. There is much more in life coming and waiting for you and it is important to remember how hard you worked to get to where you are and be thankful you can now fix the pain you may have caused to yourself or others.

Taking Recovery for Granted

Being sober and on the recovery path successfully is a fantastic feeling. You are now confident, you see things clearer and have great plans for your recovery. Recovery lasts a lifetime. If your alive and are sober, you are still in recovery.  Recovery doesn’t end when you complete treatment or become sober, recovery is forever. Do not get too comfortable. It doesn’t matter if you have been in recovery for a week or for years, relapse can happen at any time. A relapse can be when you least expect it you have the urge to use again and relapse. It can become tricky to not get off track in your recovery. It is important to understand to continue the things that helped you begin your recovery in the first place.

Lying and Dishonesty

When people enter into recovery, they are making a decision to have a more honest approach to life. While trapped during addiction the individual will have been trapped in delusion and denial. In order to maintain the addiction, they would have also needed to behave dishonestly. If people become sober and continue to behave this way it is usually a sign that they are caught in dry drunk syndrome. This means that they are physically sober but their behavior is just as it always has been. Dishonesty prevents them from finding real happiness in recovery and may eventually cause them to relapse.

People or places connected to the addictive behavior

Being around people and places associated with one’s addiction can often push a person to relapse. For example, going back to a favorite bar may tempt an individual to pick up the bottle again. Another example, going back around previous friends you got high with or going back to places you got high at. It’s better to avoid these temptations, especially in the early phases of recovery.

Negative or Challenging Emotions

While negative emotions are a normal part of life, those struggling with addiction often cite frustration, anger, anxiety, and loneliness, as triggers for relapse. Therefore, usually as a part of therapy, its essential to develop effective ways of managing these feelings.

Times of Celebration

Most situations that can trigger relapse are perceived as negative. However, sometimes positive situations such as times of celebration, where alcohol or drugs are present, are just as risky. Avoiding such events or bringing along a trusted friend can assist in preventing relapse.

Seeing or sensing the object of your addiction

In recovery, even a slight reminder of the object of the addiction, such as seeing the portrayal of addictive behavior on television, can lead to relapse. While it is impossible to avoid such reminders forever, developing skills for managing any urges or cravings can aid in preventing relapse.

High Expectations of Others

Holding realistic expectations doesn’t just apply to your own life, it applies to other’s lives, as well. When we expect too much of our spouses, our parents, children, loved ones, friends, acquaintances, or co-workers, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Understand that everyone can and does make mistakes in daily life. Instead of holding your loved ones to unrealistic expectations, focus on healing and rebuilding your relationships one day at a time.


Self-confidence is a powerful tool in addiction recovery. However, there is a fine line between holding your head high and know your boundaries and justifying that you are in complete control and a small amount of your drug of choice or another drug won’t hurt you. By allowing your self-image to become distorted, you may become overconfident and indulge in irrational thoughts. In recovery, it’s important to build a healthy balance of self-esteem and humility.

Avoiding A Relapse

When beginning the journey for recovery it is very important to be aware of the things that could possibly be a trigger for relapse. Whether leaving a treatment center or an outpatient program the aftercare that is chosen plays a very important role in the road to recovery. After care is a way to stay motivated in recovery and to continue to help you with struggles you may face.

While relapse may happen for some and not others, it’s important to remember that relapse does not mean failure. Recovering from addiction is a life-long process of hard work and dedication to one’s program and recovery path. It is important that if relapse happens, you or your loved one get help right away. This does not mean they failed and cannot complete recovery. Maybe it wasn’t their time. It is ok to need help again because no recovery is perfect. Call today to speak with an addiction consoler to help get you or your loved one on the right path.