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What Happens if You Go into Drug Detox While Breastfeeding?

Substance Abuse During Pregnancy, The Detox Process and Breastfeeding. Risks and Benefits.


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What Is Detox?

Medical Detox or Detoxification is the process by which an addicted person clears their body from alcohol and or drugs due to substance use disorder.  And begin recovery from their addiction. Drug rehabilitation and detox centers help clients ease and reduce withdrawal symptoms and their corresponding dangerous side effects. Going into a detox center is generally the first step clients take to begin long-term recovery treatment.

While medical detox is the first part of substance abuse rehabilitation, it is usually followed by dual-diagnosis, behavioral therapy, medication, and continued integrated care. Detox is designed to minimize the dangerous side efforts and discomfort of withdrawal symptoms following chemical dependency cessation. Detox centers many times are essential to help clients overcome their physical dependency on drugs and alcohol.

Did you know that in some situations, withdrawal from substance abuse can be life-threatening? That’s why utilizing a twenty-four-hour medically supervised inpatient addiction and rehabilitation detox center can be so important. Supervised medical care Detox centers offer a safe environment where healthcare professionals use custom-tailored medications along with other treatments to ease withdrawal and safely manage their side effects when you stop using.

drug detox while breastfeeding
Research shows that the use of tobacco, alcohol, or illicit drugs or misuse of prescription drugs by pregnant women can have severe health consequences for infants.

Detox is only the first part of addiction treatment.  Clients must get rid of their addictive drugs and alcohol out of the body to be in a place where they can begin treatment beyond the initial withdrawal stage.  This is required not just for the critical positive impact on the brain, but also for the rest of the body including the heart, cardiovascular system, and liver.  Substance abuse can negatively impact just about everything when it comes to clients’ health.


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Substance Use During Pregnancy

Research shows that the use of tobacco, alcohol, or illicit drugs or misuse of prescription drugs by pregnant women can have severe health consequences for infants. This is because many substances pass easily through the placenta, so substances that a pregnant woman takes also reach the fetus. Recent research shows that smoking tobacco or marijuana, taking prescription pain relievers, or using illegal drugs during pregnancy is associated with double or even triple the risk of stillbirth. Estimates suggest that about 5 percent of pregnant women use one or more addictive substances.

Regular use of some drugs can cause neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), in which the baby goes through withdrawal upon birth. Most research in this area has focused on the effects of opioids (prescription pain relievers or heroin). However, data has shown that the use of alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and caffeine during pregnancy may also cause the infant to show withdrawal symptoms at birth. The type and severity of an infant’s withdrawal symptoms depend on the drug(s) used, how long and how often the birth mother used it, how her body breaks the drug down, and whether the infant was born full-term or prematurely.

drug detox while breastfeeding
Regular use of some drugs can cause neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), in which the baby goes through withdrawal upon birth.

Drugs can pass into the mother’s breastmilk, and if she still struggles with addiction, substances of abuse may continue to affect the child’s brain and body as it grows. Some detox drugs, like buprenorphine, may also pass into the breastmilk, so risks must be weighed against benefits.

Substances that can pass into the breastmilk and begin to affect the child include:

  • Alcohol: Abusing alcohol during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), and during breastfeeding, alcohol can continue to cause harm. Anecdotes suggest that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol increase breastmilk production, but scientific studies have found that this is not true. Instead, alcohol in breastmilk can hurt a child’s sleep cycle.
  • Nicotine: Although 16 percent of pregnant women in the US have smoked in the past month, this is one of the most harmful substances to use while pregnant as it damages the physical, behavioral and mental development of the fetus. After birth, if breastfeeding, nicotine continues to pass through breastmilk into the infant and will continue to harm the baby.
  • Marijuana: Some studies suggest that a small amount of THC enters the breastmilk, and this can affect children exposed in the first month of life, influencing motor coordination skills up to the time they are 1 year old. It is also possible that THC in breastmilk could affect the child’s brain development, but fewer studies have been conducted on this problem.
  • Some prescription medicines: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) keeps a list of prescription medications that are safe during breastfeeding. Women who have questions about their prescriptions and how these drugs may affect their child during pregnancy or breastfeeding should consult their physician, as not all medications have known effects.

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The Detox Process and Breastfeeding – Drug Detox While Breastfeeding

Babies born to mothers who are struggling with addiction are at risk of developing neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). This is a form of withdrawal that requires medical intervention to keep the child safe; however, symptoms in most infants go away within one week after birth. Some long-term health effects, including mental and behavioral damage, may be ongoing.

A woman who detoxes after her child is born is not likely to put her baby at risk except for a few forms of detox that involve medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Both buprenorphine and methadone can transfer into breastmilk, which can affect the child’s development. A longitudinal survey of babies exposed to methadone, for example, found that at 9 months old, about 37.5 percent of the sample struggled with motor development delays.

However, if an infant is exposed to opioid abuse in utero, they may be given very small, controlled doses of methadone or buprenorphine after birth to ease withdrawal symptoms, so the risk of exposure must be balanced with other risks. Buprenorphine, in contrast to methadone, was metabolized less readily into breastmilk, so it may be a better option for breastfeeding mothers who wish to begin the opioid recovery process.

Babies with NAS from opioid addiction in particular benefit from physical contact, gentle rocking, and other forms of comfort. Breastfeeding may be comforting, and the process appears to help mothers too. Women recovering from opioid abuse emotionally benefit during the breastfeeding process, so the prescription of detox drugs should be balanced with the potential benefits of physical contact reducing stress and the infant’s experience of NAS.

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Risks Of Detoxing While Breastfeeding

Even though abstaining from drugs and alcohol is a crucial first step for the health of the mother and baby, the drugs used during detox may pose developmental risks as well. For example, buprenorphine and methadone have been shown to affect motor development delays in infants under one year of age.

Withdrawal symptoms may be potentially life-threatening, depending on the type of drugs used and duration of use. Detox can help manage these symptoms, but only in a controlled, medically monitored environment, as detoxing at home can pose additional risks.

Benefits Of Detoxing While Breastfeeding

The primary benefits of detoxing are that the mother will not be abusing substances that she otherwise would have been without detox. Even though there are risks associated with detox medications transferred through human milk, they are far less dangerous to the health and well-being of the baby than continued drug abuse. In general, medication-assisted detox is safe for breastfeeding mothers.

Women in recovery benefit immensely both physically and emotionally from the medications offered during detox. Their reduced stress levels will have a beneficial impact on the baby. The stress levels of babies with NAS will also be lowered, due to the physical contact and bonding with the mother during breastfeeding.

Research has shown that if a fetus is exposed to small doses of buprenorphine and methadone in utero, withdrawal symptoms and other health issues are easier to manage post-birth.

Detox programs

There are various types of professional detoxification programs at a detox center to fit a patient’s clinical needs. Many detox centers employ the “medical model” of detoxification, which means a clinical staff made up of physicians and nurses who use certain medications to help people safely detox.

Detox can take place in a wide variety of settings and at varying levels of intensity. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration identifies five detoxification “placement levels of care” within the detoxification realm of treatment, including:

  • Ambulatory Detoxification Without Extended On-Site Monitoring: This level of care is an organized outpatient service monitored at predetermined intervals. Examples of this type of detoxification might take place in a physician’s office or under the supervision of a home health care agency.
  • Ambulatory Detoxification With Extended On-Site Monitoring: This type of detoxification is similar to the placement level of care above but requires the availability of credentialed nurses who monitor patients for several hours a day.
drug detox while breastfeeding
There are various types of professional detoxification programs at a detox center to fit a patient’s clinical needs.
  • Clinically Managed Residential Detoxification: This type of detoxification provides 24/7 supervision and may sometimes be referred to as “social detoxification” because it has minimal medical oversight, but focuses on peer and social support.
  • Medically Monitored Inpatient Detoxification: This level of care is more restrictive than the Clinically Managed Residential Detoxification placement level of care. Inpatient detoxification consists of 24/7 care and supervision and support for patients experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
  • Medically Managed Intensive Inpatient Detoxification: This level of care is the most restrictive placement level of care in the detoxification program realm, and provides 24/7 care and supervision for patients experiencing withdrawal symptoms in an acute care inpatient setting. Medical detoxification may be provided on inpatient treatment, residential, or outpatient basis, and may exist as part of a larger substance abuse rehabilitation program or operate on its own. Patients with complicated medical or psychiatric needs are more likely to require detoxification in an inpatient setting.

Find A Treatment Center For Substance Use Disorder

Substance abuse disorder is a condition that can cause health, social, and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up has several facilities located in FloridaLake WorthWest Palm, and New Jersey that can provide you, or someone you love, inpatient rehab with professional and safe care. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.

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