Methadone is the solution of choice for mothers who find themselves both pregnant and addicted to heroin. Rather than continue using the dangerous street drug or attempt to quit cold turkey – both of which could trigger a miscarriage – expectant mothers in most states can seek a doctor’s assistance and get on a methadone maintenance program that will provide them with measured liquid doses of the drug. This can help them to avoid withdrawal symptoms as well as any unwanted adulterants or overdose risks that come with continued heroin use.
Countless lives have been saved as a result of this medical practice. In many cases, it is the first step in helping the mother to get and stay completely sober. But many people don’t approve of methadone maintenance for pregnant women because the baby develops an opiate addiction and often must spend the first weeks of life in intensive care going through withdrawal symptoms.
Kathy (names have been changed) calls herself a “methadone mom.” She switched from heroin to methadone as soon as she found out she was pregnant with her son Colton, and she believes that it was the best thing that could have happened for both of them.
Q: If you had it to do over, would you choose methadone maintenance again?
If I had it to do over, I would have gotten off dope before I got pregnant. But all things being equal, yes, I absolutely would go the methadone route again.
Q: How did you feel when you were pregnant and on methadone?
It was hard. It was very hard. But pregnancy is always hard, and it was much better than trying to be pregnant and deal with a heroin addiction. It actually made it easier in one way: I didn’t have to hustle every day for my dose. I went down to the clinic every morning and got my methadone dose and that was it. I made sure to get to my OB appointments and meet with my case manager every week. I don’t think I would have done those things without methadone. I don’t think I would have been able to hold the pregnancy.
Q: How did the methadone affect Colton?
He was born 7 pounds 8 ounces, and he came on time. They kept him in the NICU for a few weeks, and that was really hard for both of us. They let me stay with him, and there were some really horrible moments where I was scared for him, but the nurses said he did really well. They tapered him off and he was drug-free and addiction-free in a couple weeks, and they let him go home after 27 days.
Q: Did you stay on methadone after he was born?
I wanted to detox with him, but my doctor suggested it might be better for me to go slowly and not rush it to make sure that I would be well enough to take care of him. I didn’t want to risk a relapse with a new baby, so I did – I took it really slow, about two years, to completely get off methadone.
Q: Would you recommend methadone to other women who are addicted and pregnant?
I would. I absolutely would. But if you’re addicted and think you might get pregnant, then I would recommend getting on methadone maintenance now and trying to get clean so the baby doesn’t have to start out life that way.