ClickCease Is Demerol Dangerous for Pregnant Women? - Granite Recovery Centers

Is Demerol Dangerous for Pregnant Women?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), over 50 million people in the United States have reported using prescription medications for nonmedical purposes. They add that this type of pharmaceutical use is considered to be drug abuse.

Opioid misuse is a widespread epidemic in the United States. Pregnant women are at risk of developing an opioid addiction any time they expose themselves to those types of drugs, even under a prescription order. A report by the CDC covered a 2007 study, which found that approximately 22% of pregnant women on Medicaid filled an opiate prescription while they were pregnant. It is a high percentage, considering the risks opioid use has on a baby.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) states that from 2008 to 2012, approximately one in every three women who were of reproductive age filled a prescription for opioids every year.

Demerol, also called meperidine hydrochloride, is an addictive narcotic analgesic similar to morphine. It is used for severe pain and sedation. According to WebMD, this drug is sometimes used to relieve pain during childbirth, but women that are pregnant should not take the drug otherwise.

Opiates vs. Opioids – What is the Difference?

According to Oregon’s Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission, there are two names that are frequently used to describe this group of narcotic drugs.

Some people use the terms opiates and opioids interchangeably, but they differ according to the process in which the drug was made. Either way, both opiates, and opioids have the same effects on the body and the same risk for becoming addictive.

The difference is that opiates come from plant matter, and opioids are made synthetically in a lab. In mainstream media, the term “opioids” is used to refer to both types of medications, which makes it an umbrella term to refer to both types of drugs. These compounds are prescribed mainly for acute and severe pain.

They may also be utilized for cough suppression, diarrhea, anesthesia, and opiate/opioid use disorder. It is possible for people who are experiencing substance use disorder to use opioids illicitly.


These drugs are naturally derived from poppies. They can include morphine, heroin, and codeine.


This term can be used to refer to natural opiates or semi or fully synthetic opiates created in a lab. These types of drugs can include tramadol, oxycodone, and fentanyl.

What Is Demerol?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the United States has over 50 million people that have utilized prescription medications without a medical need. This type of use is considered drug abuse.

Many of the prescribed medications people get their hands on are used as painkillers. Demerol is a brand name for meperidine, a synthetic opioid drug. It is a medication that requires a prescription. Some of its medical uses include:

  • Pre-anesthesia
  • Post-surgery
  • Pain relief

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that Demerol is similar to morphine in that they both use the same method of action.

The FDA report continues to state that Demerol’s principal actions of therapeutic value are sedation and analgesia. It is indicated for moderate to severe pain and should not be taken for chronic conditions. The drug is designed for acute episodes.

Can Opioids or Opiates Be Taken While Pregnant?

The CDC reports that using opioids while pregnant can impact both the woman and her baby negatively. Women may use illicit opioids, including heroin, or may have a prescription for opioids that they are misusing. Other cases include women who are on an opioid agonist regimen that is part of a medication-assisted treatment protocol for treating opioid use disorder.

They go on to explain that sometimes there is a medical need to give a pregnant woman an opioid, for example, to relieve the severe pain from childbirth. It is a matter of weighing the risks and benefits. Sometimes physicians consider opioids safer than other pain-relieving alternatives. However, they avoid prescribing it due to its high potential for addiction, misuse, overdose, and withdrawal symptoms.

No matter what reason a woman is using opioids, she must become aware of the risks involved and what she can do to help her stop opioid misuse. Granite Recovery Centers help women focus on their health and the well-being of their baby by providing an effective Medication Assisted Treatment Program. Our trained staff will guide you through any challenge until you reach your goals.

Doctors often advise women to use any type of medication carefully while pregnant and to avoid any substances altogether. Physicians don’t recommend using opioids while breastfeeding. Instead, they tend to find other alternatives for safely treating pain.

All women should speak to their physician before starting new drug therapy. Some effective alternatives to opioids include non-drug therapies, as well as non-opioid drugs.

What Other Opioids Are Similar to Demerol?

The United States produces many types of different opioids. A pregnant woman can gain access to an array of opioid drugs. These types of drugs are found in local pharmacies or hospital-settings. They can be injected or taken via the oral route.

Other opioids similar to Demerol include:

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Opium
  • Oxycodone

How Long Can Opiates Stay in the System During Pregnancy?

There is currently very little data about the length of time opioids stay in your body during pregnancy. A woman’s metabolism changes during pregnancy, affecting how the body breaks down drugs. Medical trials to test the dosing of Demerol have not been performed on pregnant women due to ethical concerns.

The lack of knowledge regarding how long it takes for a pregnant woman to metabolize and eliminate opioids creates concern amongst doctors as they advise patients against opioid use during pregnancy.

Are There Conditions Where the Benefits of Opioids Are Greater Than the Risk?

Particular medical conditions are urgent and may require the use of opioids even if the patient is breastfeeding or pregnant. These issues can include:

  • Delivering a baby by cesarean section, which can create severe acute pain. C-sections are highly invasive surgeries that may require a brief course of medication therapy with opioids.
  • Stones from kidney dysfunction create extreme pain as they are passed through the body. The high level of discomfort is best aided by a short opioids regimen.
  • Sickle cell disease can create critical episodes that involve painful symptoms that are greatly relieved and managed by short-term opioid therapy.
  • Traumatic brain injuries that occur during or post-pregnancy or other severe injuries may require the use of a short-term opioid regimen to control the severe pain.
  • Chronic pain is sometimes a reason for using an opioid regimen. There are cases of severe chronic pain that require the aid of opioids.
  • Treatment therapies that involve medication-assisted protocols may require the use of opioids. In the case of women who are pregnant and recovering from addiction to opiates, it is a great alternative that allows having a life of sobriety.

What Are the Effects of Opiate Use During Pregnancy?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that the consumption of opioids during pregnancy can negatively affect women and their unborn children. This makes physicians very cautious when prescribing opioids to anyone, especially pregnant women.

Clinical research offers controversial results regarding opioids in pregnant women. Some studies find that babies who are born from a woman that used Demerol while pregnant are more prone to having birth defects. However, not all studies indicate the same results.

Another issue that doctors have to be aware of is the withdrawal symptoms a woman can experience if she abruptly stops using Demerol. These symptoms can put her and her baby at risk. The general consensus amongst medical professionals is to avoid prescribing opioid medications altogether.

Babies Born with an Opioid Addiction

Mediline Plus is part of the National Library of Medicine. They define NAS (neonatal abstinence syndrome) as a group of symptoms and medical manifestations that occur in newborns who are exposed to opioid use for a length of time while in the mother’s womb.

A baby born with NAS will experience withdrawal symptoms from no longer receiving the opioid it is born addicted to. The baby has to be carefully monitored as it regains a healthy balance free from symptoms and chemical dependence.

A report by the CDC shows data and statistics about opioid use during pregnancy. Data from a 2016 report managed by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality indicates that out of 1,000 hospital stays, seven newborns are diagnosed with NAS.

That’s approximately one baby with a NAS diagnosis every 19 minutes in the United States. It is equivalent to 80 NAS-diagnosed newborns each day.

The report adds that babies who are experiencing NAS benefit from their mother’s skin-to-skin contact, swaddling, and cuddling. There are instances where doctors prescribe babies opioid medications as they completely detox from their dependence.

In addition, the report states that NAS and opioid dependency can occur both in the cases of mothers undergoing medication-assisted treatment for opioids or those who are misusing the drug on their own.

What Are the Long-Term Effects on Opioid-Addicted Babies?

Dr. Henrietta Baba, professor of Pediatrics at the University of Kentucky, reports that the following prenatal factors may affect the long-term outcome of NAS:

  • Duration of opioid exposure in the womb
  • Maternal use of other drugs along with opioids
  • Severity of withdrawal symptoms
  • Family and environmental factors

Dr. Baba adds that babies who are born addicted to opioids and who are experiencing NAS may have the following manifestations:

  • Small head circumference
  • Low birth weight
  • Congenital malformations
  • Seizures
  • Abnormal sleep patterns
  • Other signs of withdrawal

Getting Help for Opioid Misuse While Pregnant

The United States National Institute on Drug Abuse published a report about treating an opioid disorder during pregnancy. They state that an untreated opioid dependence during pregnancy can have the following consequences:

  • Increased risk for maternal infection
  • Malnutrition and poor prenatal care
  • Dysfunctional family environment

Babies born to opioid-addicted mothers are more prone to experience health and social issues well into adulthood. They are more challenged than babies born to healthy mothers.

The report states that Methadone is an effective drug that is used to treat opioid-dependent women during pregnancy. The data shows that Methadone improves infant outcomes by achieving the following:

  • Stabilizes the baby’s levels of opioids in the body and avoiding prenatal withdrawal symptoms.
  • Reduces the probability that mothers will pass infections to their unborn babies.
  • Improves the long-term prognosis for both baby and the mother.
  • Improves the prenatal care the baby may receive.

The report adds that mothers should not stop using opioids suddenly. Demerol is a highly addictive substance that has to be gradually eliminated to avoid major withdrawal symptoms.

Start Your Recovery with Granite Recovery Centers. Our evidence-based treatment program for pregnant women who misuse Demerol has been effective for providing the mother and baby the best future.

Our center also has a women’s specific treatment program that deals with the specific challenges women face. When you join our women’s rehab center, you’ll be surrounded by other patients who are facing the same challenges and may provide a sense of camaraderie.

Our trained clinical staff knows the difficulties pregnant women face and what they require as they gradually recover from their Demerol misuse. They use the latest therapies to engage the patient fully and help them develop long-lasting changes. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.

You and your baby have a bright future with the right support system and therapies. The sooner you decide to get help, the sooner you’ll be on your way to a healthy balance for you and your baby.

Pregnancy and pharmaceutical misuse is an increasingly common problem. Fortunately, there are tools available for you to have a successful and happy pregnancy.