Opioids of any kind, oxycodone included, can cause a host of problems for a fetus. Always discuss any opioid use with a health care provider if you learn you are pregnant.

Oxycodone and Pregnancy

Whether the use of oxycodone is as prescribed or (either accidental or willful) abuse, if you are pregnant, discuss any oxycodone use with a health care provider. Beyond its effects on the mother, it can add serious complications to the pregnancy and the development of the fetus.

While you should seek help for any drug abuse issue, pregnancy adds to the urgency.

Oxycodone is a serious opioid drug. Opioids can be highly addictive. Even if you take them as prescribed, they affect the body fairly dramatically.

Meanwhile, a fetus is highly sensitive to what goes into the mother’s body. It does not merely absorb needed nutrients. Chemicals brought into the body can also be absorbed.

If you abuse drugs, rather than take them as prescribed, you may consider hiding your use from a doctor. A doctor is not going to report you to the police; they are there to help you.

For your safety and the safety of your baby, you must report your drug use to a health care professional. Otherwise, you risk major birth defects, which can seriously impact your child’s quality of life. Miscarriage and fetal death are additional risks of drug abuse during pregnancy.

Risks of Oxycodone Use During Pregnancy

March of Dimes, a nonprofit that focuses on helping mothers and babies, has an excellent resource if you or a loved one is pregnant and on oxycodone. It touches on a number of things, including the complicated nature of being dependent on opioids during pregnancy.

Among other things, opioid abuse during pregnancy can cause the following:

  • Miscarriage
  • Preterm labor and premature birth
  • Birth defects
  • Fetal growth restriction or low birth weight
  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)

NAS is when a baby grows dependent on a drug in the womb and experiences withdrawal after birth. It can cause low birth weight, a dangerously small baby, trouble for the baby as it breathes, and additional issues.

Unfortunately, it is dangerous to cease opioid use abruptly. These own risks can occur during pregnancy when quitting cold turkey takes place .

  • Stillbirth
  • Growth problems
  • Preterm labor and premature birth
  • Placental abruption

Placental abruption is a serious condition where the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus before birth. The placenta is how a fetus gets nutrients and oxygen from the mother. If this is disrupted, it can have deadly consequences.

If you experience placental abruption, the March of Dimes states you have an approximate 10 percent chance of experiencing one in later pregnancies.

Instead of abrupt cessation of opioid use, a middle ground is usually recommended. Opioid use will be tapered off, with the woman taking progressively lower amounts of the drug. In some instances, the pregnant woman may be switched to methadone or buprenorphine, opioid maintenance medications.

The reality of using oxycodone or similar drugs during pregnancy is that the fetus is exposed to a variety of risks with any amount of use. With care and professional help, those risks can be managed.

What Should I Do If I Am Pregnant and Using Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is an opioid, an especially addictive class of drugs that can fight pain but also cause a sense of euphoria that many find hard to resist. Even if your use was legitimate and completely as prescribed, you may still be physically dependent on the medication. Again, this means it could affect both you and your baby if you stop oxycodone use immediately.

In many areas, there are laws in place that will prevent a doctor from doing anything but helping you if you report your drug use to them, even if you have illegally been obtaining the opioids. If your local laws protect you, report any use to a health care professional immediately to receive help.

Unfortunately, a large number of states (as many as 23), according to a 2011 report that was reaffirmed in 2014 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), have laws that complicate this advice. While laws are always evolving, a woman who is pregnant may wish to check local laws before reporting illicit drug use.

Some areas may require a health care professional who learns a pregnant person is abusing drugs to report them. The exact penalties vary, but as ACOG notes, policies like these may discourage pregnant women with drug habits from getting help for their developing babies.

Such policies are notably ineffective in actually helping developing babies. In fact, they discourage many expectant mothers who would most benefit from help from seeking it. If you are pregnant and addicted to drugs in such an area, you may, unfortunately, be forced to choose between legal penalties or having your baby receive subpar care.

If you are pregnant and want to help yourself and your baby, learn the best way to get help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides a free and confidential helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for people with any issues or concerns related to drug use.

From there, you will be directed to treatment centers and other sources of information that can meet your needs. Services can help you get the best setup for your baby as well as treat any dependency or addiction problems you may be struggling with.

There are many federal and state programs, in addition to nonprofits, designed to help pregnant women who are struggling with addiction. For example, the nonprofit National Advocates for Pregnant Women works to ensure that pregnant women who are struggling with addiction are treated for their medical disease rather than criminalized.

When Laws Hurt Women and Fetuses

There are laws in place that are hurting developing fetuses and women who are pregnant. When pregnant women who are addicted to drugs are punished for addiction, it merely discourages them from seeking help.

The Guttmacher Institute, an institute that studies sexual and reproductive health, illustrates in an overview of such laws, that the United States seems to be in a complicated place when it comes to drug use and pregnancy.

Pregnant woman sitting down looking at a handful of pills

Many states prioritize getting pregnant women treated for addiction over others, yet (as noted) many states, including some with that same prioritization, might punish them for child abuse.

Willful abuse of drugs while pregnant is obviously wrong, hurting not just the pregnant woman but also her baby. While the exact rights of a fetus are hotly debated, few will argue that willfully abusing drugs while pregnant is desirable or acceptable.

Systems should be in place to strongly encourage people to get help for their abuse and to prevent their developing fetus from suffering from that abuse as much as possible.

Harsh penalties for such abuse do not historically work. They instead discourage pregnant women from getting any kind of help.

The Need for Updated Laws

These laws likely come from a place of genuine care; people want the best for developing babies. Many lawmakers and their communities desire for fetuses to be viewed on equal grounds as already birthed babies. However, this particular issue regarding substance abuse during pregnancy must evolve beyond such arguments, which primarily stem from the fierce abortion debate in the United States. From a utilitarian perspective, the medical community should advocate for these laws to be changed. Pregnant women and their babies are both harmed by them.

Negative reinforcement is routinely shown to be fairly ineffective in fighting drug abuse overall.

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