Using heroin in pregnancy leads to drastic effects on a developing child. Learn more about the impact of using opiates while pregnant.

The opioid epidemic continues to plague teenagers and adults America but are the effects of heroin in pregnancy? Opiates and opioids destroy the lives of not only the person who uses them but also the lives of those around them. When a pregnant woman uses heroin, though, she affects the growing child inside of her as well.

You might find it difficult to understand why anyone would use heroin in pregnancy. You might not truly be able to until you’ve experienced drug addiction for yourself or through the addiction of a loved one. But it is a heartbreaking truth for some.

What are the effects of using heroin in pregnancy? The effects of alcohol use on a developing baby are widely known but the effects of opiates are not talked about as often. Continue reading to learn more about how this disastrous drug impacts the growing child.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is an opioid drug in the same category as morphine, fentanyl, and prescription painkillers. It comes in various forms, from “black tar” heroin (a sticky, black substance) to “white China” (a white, crystalline powder). Depending on the form of heroin they have, users can smoke, snort, or inject the drug.

The “high” of heroin comes on almost immediately, usually described as a sudden “rush” of intense, drowsy pleasure. Breathing slows and it becomes difficult to think clearly. Your body feels heavy and your skin feels warm but these feelings come along with nausea, vomiting, and intense itching. Heroin users also “nod out,” referring to the slipping between awake and semiconscious.

What Are the Effects of Heroin Use?

The short-term and long-term effects of heroin use are dangerous and potentially deadly. The long-term results of heroin use include:

  • Constipation and stomach cramps
  • Insomnia
  • Mental disorders (particularly depression and anxiety)
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Complications with the lungs
  • Damaged nasal tissues in those who snort the drug
  • Collapsed veins or abscesses in those who inject the drug

Though the consequences of long-term use are shocking, the short-term repercussions can be just as terrible. The most severe short-term effect of the drug is the possibility of overdose. During an overdose, breathing slows or stops completely which limits or cuts off the supply of oxygen to the brain. If they are not treated in time, an overdose may lead to death.

Opiates in pregnancy
Opiates in Pregnancy: Is it Safe to Take Them?

Does using opiates in pregnancy cause complications? Find out whether you are safe to use opiate while you are pregnant and what happens if you do.

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How Does Using Heroin in Pregnancy Affect the Baby?

Trace amounts of everything a mother ingests while pregnant, including heroin in pregnancy, ends up in the child’s system as well. The baby is impacted along with the mother when she uses. Since the effects of heroin are detrimental to a fully grown adult, consider their impact on a still-developing baby.

Birth Defects

Using heroin in pregnancy commonly leads to birth defects. These defects range from mild to severe depending on how much the mother used while carrying the child. Birth defects impact the baby’s body, either in physical appearance or in bodily function. They affect how the baby develops as it grows older and its overall health.

Placental Abruption

Placental abruption refers to a condition where the placenta separates from the uterus before a child is born. This leads to extreme complications including heavy bleeding that may be fatal for both the mother and her baby.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)

When a mother uses drugs like heroin in pregnancy, the baby receives a small supply as well. If she uses often enough, the developing child also becomes addicted to the substances she uses. After delivery, the baby experiences drug withdrawals in a manner similar to an addict who quits using drugs. NAS is a serious issue becoming more widespread as drug addiction rates soar.


Just as the consequences of heroin use in adults can be deadly, using heroin in pregnancy may cause death for a developing child. Stillbirth happens when an unborn baby dies in the womb any time after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Once the mother delivers her baby after using heroin in pregnancy, the child is still at risk for sudden infant death syndrome.

Why Do People Use Heroin?

Most users don’t set out with a plan to become heroin addicts. In fact, three out of four people who use the drug said that they were addicted to prescription painkillers first. Thousands of people resort to heroin after prescription opioids become too expensive to afford or their access to them runs out.

It is commonly agreed that heroin is the most addictive drug available. Once they experience the first high, users explain that they would willingly spend a lifetime chasing that feeling. No matter what the cost they will try to once again experience that first high.
Some are even willing to use heroin in pregnancy to find the high or avoid the comedown.

Getting Clean From Heroin

Though it might seem impossible, it is possible to get clean from heroin. Addiction treatment centers like Hawaii Island Recovery provide a path to freedom from the chains of drugs and alcohol. To learn more about treatment options and how you can find help for yourself or a loved one, call 877-721-3556.

Get Help Today!

If you or a loved one need help, call Hawaii Island Recovery toll-free right now.