Heroin exposure — The Bump

Heroin exposure

Hello everyone-

I need some advice... We are being shown to a birthmom who has used heroin throughout her pregnancy. While we don't have much info at this point, I do know that she has used small amounts regularly thru the pregnancy, has had prenatal care regularly since she was 4 months pregnant, and was on methadone (instead of heroin) for the 5th month of her pregnancy.

I have done a lot of research on the effects of heroin on pregnancy and have also talked to a few of our physician friends. What i'm looking for is advice from anyone who has actually taken on a situation such as this. What effects did you notice in your newborn, infant, and child (if any)? Any info would be sooo appreciated! Thanks!


Unable to conceive due to emergency hysterectomy 11/04 Started our adoption journey 4/11 9/29/11- Officially waiting! 5/29/12- Our little boy is born and goes home with us the next day :-)

Re: Heroin exposure

  • I don't have experience but wanted to offer a virtual hug as you make these decisions.  It's rough trying to decide what's right for your family.

    A friend who's a doc in an area that has a high percentage of meth users gave us a few things to think about---

    1- including most women that admit to one drug have also used others and possibily alcohol. 

    2-  talk with MDs that see lots of cases of drug exposed kids.  Too often adoptive parents are in seeing great docs who treat suburban-type kids with suburban-parents who did yoga and never touched caffeine during prenancy.  Okay, that's a bit of a stretch but you see what I mean.  If you can connect with some good pediatricians that do treat in areas that are more likely to see drug exposure and FAS, you may learn something.

    3-  read w/ your mind wide open to the fact that most studies are not done on adoptive kids.  So when you read about FAS, these kids may still be in situations with the same parents that made the choice to drink (or do drugs) while pregnant.  Adoptive kids exposed to drugs and/or alcohol usually have significant advantages like parents who are watching for issues and then respond with early intervention.  Does that make sense? 

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  • I don't really know much about the long-term effects, if any, but I've worked as a dietitian in a NICU before and seen infants exposed to heroin/methadone. Depending on how much the mother abused the drugs and how late in the pregnancy, the infant will withdraw and is usually put on a phenobarbital taper to help control the withdrawal symptoms (called neonatal abstinence syndrome-NAS). The babies are usually VERY irritable and need to be held a lot; they will often "overeat" to try to soothe themselves so feedings sometimes have to be limited while they're in the hospital to avoid excessive weight gain. Some babies are able to be discharged fairly quickly but others can take a few months to be able to go home- it really depends on the mother's habits and how well the baby handles the withdrawal. I don't know how well doctors can predict the severity of NAS before the baby is born and, again, I don't really know about the long term effects. Definitely a difficult decision- good luck with whatever you decide!

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  • i currently have an 8 month old foster baby who was born addicted to heroin, not methadone! mom used A LOT during her pregnancy. our fs is still methadone for his withdrawals. he cried a lot in the beginning, like 20 hours out of the day(not an exaggeration). he is an extreme case though because of how long he was exposed. i dont have time to type a bunch now but if you want to pm me i will tell you everything i know about heroin in babies, i would love to help!
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  • I have limited experience in the early weeks. Methadone is far worse than heroin, in the withdrawal symptoms in babies. Both are horrible horrible withdrawals.
  • DD is 4 1/2 and her mother used for 10 years prior. We did not have DD when she was first born but I do have the hospital records that indicate that she had withdraws for 1 month after she was born and stayed in the hosptial. She was then placed in a home for drug babies until she was off the stuff for withdraws. DD had a list of things that she was born with in her system. The birth family denies that she had withdraws but the records say she had some pretty bad ones....

    When DD came to us at 26 months she had somethings that I think are because of the drugs. She can turn on and off her moods very quickly. She over feeds to this day. She is easily distracted. She has a temper. She looooves to take any kind of meds. With all of this said I would not trade her for the world. We are very aware and get things checked out very quickly if we think she is having any kind of problems.

    So far we have had to put her in glasses and she has bad baby teeth. These things may or may not have anything to do with drugs. She has had some minor lung issues that were taken more seriously when I told the Dr about the drug use. She will be tested for K next month and may have some issues there with writing and coloring. We are her frontline for help and awareness which she would not have had with her birth family.

  • Thank you guys for all of the great info! Nice to have such wonderful resources :-)
    Unable to conceive due to emergency hysterectomy 11/04 Started our adoption journey 4/11 9/29/11- Officially waiting! 5/29/12- Our little boy is born and goes home with us the next day :-)
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