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Heroin Addiction and Pregnancy: Dangers and Risk Factors

You may be using heroin, but it is essential to begin treatment when considering having a child. Heroin may pass through your placenta and reach the child’s bloodstream. The implications of heroin abuse on your unborn baby during pregnancy include; premature birth, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), congenital disabilities, and stillbirth.

Our professional team can make the journey towards recovery and a drug-free baby more accessible for you; seek treatment at Rolling Hills Recovery Center now!

How Heroin Affects You And Your Unborn Child

Data from the New Jersey Substance Abuse Monitoring System (NJSAMS) shows that 59.8% of the pregnant women in NJ use heroin, 9.7% reported using other opiates, and 13.5 % use marijuana. Sadly, 9.3 %  of them also abuse alcohol.

Besides the problems that heroin poses to you, it's even more dangerous to your unborn child if you use it during pregnancy. Some issues you may encounter due to heroin addiction include the following;

Congenital Disabilities

Your fetus is highly vulnerable to congenital disabilities between the 3rd week and 8th week after fertilization, which is the period of organogenesis. At this stage, most organs are formed. Suppose it is exposed to heroin via your placenta. In that case, the child may have obvious congenital disabilities - brain damage, feeding difficulties, a smaller head, etc.

Placental Abruption

Placenta abruption may be very dangerous to both you and the child; your placenta may separate from the uterus wall while the baby is still in your womb. Your unborn child’s food and oxygen supply are cut off, and you may bleed excessively.

Premature Birth (PTB)

You are said to have a preterm birth when you give birth to a baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy. CDC reports showed that in 2020, 1 in every 10 children was born prematurely.

A study by NCBI further confirmed that if you use a SUD while pregnant, you are at a higher risk of having PTB. You are at an even higher risk if you use cocaine, heroin, and other polysubstance; your child may be born before 32 weeks.

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Expert Contributor

Dr. Williams presently serves on the board of Directors for two non-profit service organizations. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University, Philadelphia, Pa, and a Ph.D. with a concentration in Clinical Psychology from Union Institute and University. In Cincinnati, Ohio. He is licensed to practice addictions counseling in both New Jersey and Connecticut and has a pending application as a practicing Psychologist in New Jersey.

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Low Birth Weight

Heroin addiction may lead to your child weighing less than 5 pounds.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)

Your child may also be born with a condition known as NAS. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is a disorder that affects your child when they withdraw from heroin and other substances they were exposed to in your womb.

Having a heroin addiction while pregnant means your unborn child is dependent on the drug of your choice - heroin. Your newborn baby may show withdrawal signs and symptoms within 72 after birth. Some of the symptoms include;

  • A baby crying.

  • Tremors (trembling).

  • Irritability, including excessive or high-pitched crying.

  • Sleep problems.

  • Hyperactive reflexes.

  • Seizures.

  • Yawning, stuffy nose, or sneezing.

  • Poor feeding and sucking.

  • Vomiting.

  • Loose stools and dehydration.

  • Increased sweating.


The severity of the signs and symptoms your child may exhibit depends on several factors, including;

  • What kind of drugs you use, the frequency and amount of drugs you expose your unborn child to, and the length of time you use them. 

  • The last time, e.g., in hours, you used heroin before delivery.

  • The extent of the pregnancy, i.e., was the pregnancy carried for the whole 9 months.

  • Any other substance you exposed your child to besides heroin and other opioids.

Rolling Hills Recovery Center offers free 24/7 heroin addiction support. Call today and confidentially speak with our addiction specialists at 855-559-8550.

Managing NAS

Your baby may need to be hospitalized to get treatment with medication (often morphine). The treatment is such that - the drug is slowly weaned out of your child’s bloodstream until they are free of substances.

Your doctor may also recommend methadone maintenance with prenatal care and an all-inclusive treatment regime to improve your health and that of your child. Since you will have taken methadone during pregnancy, your newborn child may need to be treated for NAS because of the methadone.


Heroin addiction may also lead to the death of your unborn child in your womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

You may find out that you are pregnant while using heroin; the first instinct would be to stop. You cannot stop without professional help because the dangerous withdrawal symptoms may harm you and your unborn child.

Our Rolling Hills Recovery Center professional team can help you safely wean off heroin. You must consider seeking help from a treatment facility for both of you.

Treatment at Rolling Hills Recovery Center

Treatment Interventions for Heroin Addiction During Pregnancy and After Delivery

One of the weightiest issues facing the United States today is the widespread misuse and addiction to opioid drugs (like heroin and fentanyl) and other over-the-counter pain medicines.


In the US, drug overdose is the top cause of unexpected death, and opioids are the most abused substance in overdose incidents. Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, the United States has lost almost as many people to the opioid epidemic as it did during World War II.

You may be treated using an integration of both medication and therapies to restore certain levels of normalcy in your brain functions and behavior. Some of the medicines your SUD expert may recommend include;

  • Methadone - a slow-acting opioid agonist.

  • Buprenorphine - a partial opioid agonist.

  • Naltrexone - an opioid antagonist.

Questions About The Rehab Process?

Our goal is to provide valuable and up-to-date information on addiction treatment.

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There are thousands of drug rehabs to select from, making it challenging to choose which is suitable.

Addiction treatment is essential; many methods exist to help pay for drug and alcohol rehab-associated costs.

There is a cost associated with drug rehabilitation, but the advantages of seeking care are worthwhile.

Therapies for Heroin Addiction During Pregnancy and After Birth

Therapies come in handy for a healthy pregnancy to equip you for the postpartum period - you may find that you are more stressed than usual and at a very high risk of relapsing. Psychotherapy and other behavioral therapies may help you with coping mechanisms for your baby and your well-being. Some of the therapies available for you may include;

  • One-on-one counseling

  • Behavioral therapy such as CBT, DBT, etc. 

  • Group therapy


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Your life and that of your child are significant. Heroin addiction makes it almost impossible to take care of yourself and your child. It is essential to seek treatment to improve your quality of life. The available treatment interventions, including our dual diagnosis program at Rolling Hills Recovery Center, make your recovery journey more bearable. Contact our treatment experts today and start your treatment process.

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How heroin affects you and your unborn child
Therapies for heroin addiction during pregnancy and after birth
Treatment interventions for heroin addiction during pregnancy and after delivery

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