Addiction Drug Use Heroin Treatment Options for Pregnant Women on Heroin By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada. Learn about our editorial process Updated on April 29, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print JG I/ Jamie Grill / Getty Images Pregnancy is a special time in a woman's life, and the discovery of a pregnancy is often when women reflect on many lifestyle choices — including substance use. Deciding on treatment options to address your heroin use is a wonderful gift for your baby as well as yourself, and can signify a fresh start in life for many women who are pregnant and on heroin. Determining the best approach for treating your substance use should be done with your doctor, not on your own. There are many factors to consider, and your doctor is in the best position to advise you on the path that predicts the best start in life for your baby. What Is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome? Will My Baby Be Taken Away If I Tell My Doctor? Substance use during pregnancy can potentially be a reason for a child to be taken into child-welfare care, particularly if the mother's substance use is likely to negatively impact the health, safety, and emotional well-being of her child. Heroin use is a very serious type of drug use, which is associated with many risks for both mother and baby — before and after birth. Seeking treatment as early as possible during pregnancy will increase your chances of being able to keep custody of your baby, and is more likely to lead to you receiving the care and support you need for a successful pregnancy and parenting your new baby. Should I Quit Cold Turkey? Although it might seem most sensible to stop taking drugs immediately, quitting cold turkey can be unsafe if you have been taking heroin for some time. Your risk of having a miscarriage increase if you go into heroin withdrawal, which is why methadone maintenance is often recommended for pregnant women taking heroin. However, you may be able to quit gradually with the help of your doctor. What Is Considered in Choosing a Treatment Plan? Whether or not quitting heroin gradually, using another prescription opiate, is a good idea will depend on many different factors related to your drug use, including: Your history of substance useHow long you have been taking heroinHow much heroin you have been taking recentlyHow frequently you have been taking heroin and other drugsWhether you have been taking any other drugs, and your feelings of dependency on those drugsYour past attempts to quit or cut down on heroin, and other drugs, including alcohol It will also depend on other health factors, including: Whether you have other mental health problems that you self-medicate with heroin, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder or depression, all of which are common in people who use heroinWhether you suffer from chronic painWhether you have infectious diseases, such as TB, hepatitis, or HIVAny other health concerns you have Finally, the treatment plan you and your doctor decide on will depend on your current life circumstances, such as: Whether you will have enough money for yourself and your baby to live onWhether you have a supportive partner, family, or social networkWhether you have any lifestyle difficulties that are incompatible with raising a child, such as family violence or dependence on trading sex for money, food or shelter Stability Is Key Your doctor, and perhaps another helping professional such as a social worker or psychologist, can help you to figure out how you can be as stable as possible during and after your pregnancy. Although detox and therapy are often very helpful for people coming off heroin, keeping yourself stable and not using is safest for your baby, so sometimes these aspects of treatment are better delayed until after the baby has arrived. For this reason, methadone can often be the best way to get off heroin and give you the stability to put the rest of your life in order before the baby's birth. The decision to go on methadone is not taken lightly, but remember, your doctor will be balancing the risks of the various options you have available. If you are on methadone, you are less likely to have a relapse to heroin use, and the associated risks of miscarriage or overdose. Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Cleary BJ, Reynolds K, Eogan M, et al. Methadone dosing and prescribed medication use in a prospective cohort of opioid-dependent pregnant women: Methadone dosing and prescribing in pregnancy. Addiction. 2013;108(4):762-770. doi:10.1111/add.12078 Perez-Montejano R, Finch E, Wolff K. A national survey investigating methadone treatment for pregnant opioid dependent women in england and wales. Int J Ment Health Addiction. 2013;11(6):693-702. doi:10.1007/s11469-013-9447-0 By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Get Treatment for Addiction Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.