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Heroin and Pregnancy: What Are the Risks?

How Heroin Affects Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a beautiful, delicate process that requires care and attention. Many expecting mothers are encouraged to take certain precautions by their doctors and are told to avoid certain things that could harm their children and themselves. While substance abuse is an obvious threat to pregnancy, many pregnant women who abuse drugs like heroin suffer from addiction prior to conception. Unfortunately, addiction isn’t easy to quit without help despite being pregnant. Our Delaware drug rehab shares more of the risks associated with using heroin and pregnancy and how we can help those affected.


What Is Heroin?

Heroin is an opioid street drug derived from morphine that binds to opioid receptors in the brain. These receptors are associated with functions like breathing, sleep, emotion, perception of pain, and reward. People can inject, snort, or smoke heroin, which is normally sold in a white or brown powder form as well as a sticky black goo known as black tar heroin.

By binding to opioid receptors in the brain and throughout the body, heroin works quickly, producing a rush of intense pleasure and euphoria. In addition to using the drug on its own, some heroin addicts will combine the drug with cocaine to create what’s known as a speedball. While in these cases, the user’s goal is to experience both the depressant and stimulating effects of heroin and cocaine (respectively), the results are usually unpredictable and life-threatening.

With repeated use, the brain and body become dependent on the drug’s effects to function normally. Because individuals with this problem will experience withdrawals when they aren’t high, it can be difficult for them to quit without professional help. Expectant mothers addicted to heroin should know our heroin detox in Delaware is conducted by trained and licensed medical professionals that address the health and safety of both the mother and baby.


Heroin and Pregnancy: Side Effects and Dangers

Heroin is extremely harmful to a full-grown and healthy adult, so it’s no wonder that it can be fatal for a developing fetus. Some major side effects of using heroin during pregnancy include: 


Premature Birth

Premature birth occurs when a child is born before the 37-week mark in pregnancy. Premature babies are often required to remain in the hospital after birth to gain weight, but also so the medical team can treat any additional health problems that may arise.



When a baby dies in the womb before the 20-week mark in the pregnancy, it’s considered a stillborn baby or a stillbirth. This heartbreaking consequence is, unfortunately, a common result of heroin use during pregnancy.


Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

SIDS is the unexplained death of a baby younger than a year old. It’s also known as cot death or crib death. It usually occurs during sleep and is only diagnosed if a reason for death cannot be determined during an autopsy. 


Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)

NAS is an especially frequent result of heroin and pregnancy. It occurs in babies who are exposed to drugs in the womb and experience withdrawal symptoms after birth. Some common NAS symptoms include tremors, seizures, poor feeding, and respiratory distress. There are also long-term effects of NAS, such as developmental delays in motor and learning skills and behavior, as well as problems with nutrition, growth, hearing, and vision.


Placental Abruption

Placental abruption is when the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus before the child is born. This can prevent the baby from getting oxygen and nutrients, possibly resulting in death. The mother may also experience heavy bleeding.

Placental abruption can also increase the baby’s risk of:

  • Growth problems, specifically intrauterine growth restriction
  • Preterm birth (birth that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
  • Stillbirth (when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy)

In addition to these problems, children who are born from mothers who had used drugs like heroin during pregnancy are also more likely to use drugs when they’re older. This can create a horrible chain of addiction within the family.

Engaging in any form of substance abuse while pregnant can result in various health problems for the mother and the child, including death. Heroin and pregnancy are an especially deadly combination, and professional care is advised for any woman who’s struggling with substance abuse - especially if they’re pregnant.


Our Delaware Rehab for Pregnant Women

We know how heroin affects pregnancy but are also aware that even expecting mothers have trouble quitting their addiction despite the resulting problems. Addiction is a horrible disease that doesn’t automatically go away.

Our Milford rehab for pregnant women offers medically monitored detox and addiction treatment specially designed to help expecting mothers safely recover and sustain their health and the health of their babies.

For more information about our heroin addiction treatment, call Banyan Treatment Centers today at 888-280-4763 or send us your contact information to connect with an admission specialist.


Related Reading:

Why Do People Use Heroin?

Heroin Routes of Administration & The Added Dangers of Each

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.