Fentanyl is an incredibly potent opioid. If it is abused during pregnancy, it can cause severe harm to the fetus.
In rare instances, it may be prescribed during pregnancy. It’s important to only use it under direct physician supervision and according to the prescribed instructions.
Many people are surprised to find out that fentanyl has legitimate medical uses. It is perfectly legal to use if you have a prescription for it.
According to Medical News Today, fentanyl is prescribed for the following reasons:
- Pain caused by surgery
- To people who are tolerant of other opioid medications
- Pain caused by cancer and chronic pain
- As an epidural
It is available in several formulations, such as:
- Nasal sprays
- Oral sprays
It is also available through a patch that delivers the drug over 48 to 72 hours.
Women who are pregnant must communicate with their doctor if they take fentanyl as a prescription or for nonmedical reasons.
Some women may still need to use fentanyl during pregnancy if they have recently had surgery or if they have chronic pain. MedlinePlusstates that not all opioid medication is safe for pregnant women to use.
Fentanyl is best taken for a short time and exactly as your doctor instructs. The risk of dependency and misuse remains even if you use fentanyl correctly and under medical supervision.
The Mayo Clinic mentions a few things to keep in mind if you must continue to take your opioid prescription throughout your pregnancy:
- You might still be able to use opioids but for a short time so that you can minimize risks to your unborn baby.
- You may be able to taper from fentanyl using methadone or another substitute for fentanyl.
- Alternative therapies, exercise, and non-opioid medications may be prescribed so you can continue treating chronic pain.
Using opioids still subjects you and your unborn baby to the following risks:
Risks To Your Unborn Baby
- Preterm birth
- Problems with the placenta, including reduced ability to take in nutrients
- Heavy bleeding after delivery
The babies of women who depend on opioids may suffer from health consequences, such as neonatal abstinence syndrome. This is characterized by the following:
Signs Of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
- Difficulty sleeping
- Reflexes that make it hard for them to eat
Newborns who have these symptoms may need to stay at the hospital for days or weeks.
If you are pregnant and have been prescribed fentanyl, you must talk to your doctor about tapering off the drug. Suddenly quitting fentanyl could result in dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
Illicit Use During Pregnancy
If you use fentanyl illicitly during pregnancy, you have a high risk of negative health outcomes. The Alcohol and Drug Foundation mentions there are two ways to illicitly use fentanyl. These are:
Buying fentanyl. This includes:
- Seeking fentanyl from a dealer or buying a drug that is contaminated with fentanyl
- Encountering fentanyl if you buy a medication that is contaminated with it
Diversion of fentanyl. This includes:
- Using your prescription to get high
- Using someone else’s prescription
You will likely become tolerant to or dependent on fentanyl much more easily if you use it for recreational reasons. This will also increase your odds of becoming addicted to it.
If you feel you have a problem with fentanyl, talk to your doctor about the best ways to stop using it.
Women who are pregnant and must treat a chronic pain issue can discuss their use of fentanyl with their doctor. MedlinePlusmentions a few ways to stay safe if you become pregnant while taking your prescriptions.
- Tell your doctor about your pregnancy right away.
- Do not suddenly stop taking fentanyl, as this could be more dangerous to your unborn baby than continuing to take fentanyl.
If you already had your baby, ask about whether or not you can breastfeed.
How to Quit Fentanyl
Quitting fentanyl requires talking to a doctor or health care professional regardless of your goal. You may wish to taper from your medication, or you may want to stop your recreational use of fentanyl.
You may feel it is hard to find help because you are pregnant. A December 2013 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal mentions that pregnant women who want to stop using alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs often face scrutiny from health care professionals. Do not let this discourage you from seeking help.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse outlines how women who are pregnant can recover from opioid use. Some of the treatment options available to pregnant women are:
- Methadone or buprenorphine. Both of these medications can decrease cravings in pregnant women and prevent withdrawal symptoms.
- Treatment programs. This includes both inpatient and outpatient programs. The Canadian Medical Association Journal mentions that many women who misuse drugs have unaddressed mental health issues. Treatment centers offer care that is tailored to each client’s needs, and they often provide care for co-occurring disorders.
Getting Help Immediately
Your physician can help you and your baby stay safe as you stop using fentanyl while dealing with physical or mental health issues. They may manage the situation personally or refer you to a treatment program that is equipped to help.
Many programs funded by the federal government as well as state governments aid pregnant women who are struggling with opioid addiction. Generally, pregnant women take priority on waiting lists so you can get assistance right away.
Many private programs are ready to address the more complicated medical situation of addiction during pregnancy.
The key is to get help as soon as possible. The earlier you get assistance, the less likely it is that you and your baby will suffer adverse effects from fentanyl use during pregnancy.