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Opiates during pregnancy

Opiates are drugs, which are made from opium and certain synthetic compounds which provide similar effects. Heroin, morphine and codeine are opiates as are the prescription drugs, Demerol, and Dilaudid.

Research suggests that opium, Greek for juice, was used by the Sumerians in about 4000BC, who named it hul-gil or "joy-plant". Opium was introduced into Europe from the Middle East during the sixteenth century. It enjoyed widespread use, the fictional character Sherlock Holmes was an addict, in Europe and Asia, especially China where it was used as a trading good by the British during the nineteenth century.

The primary opium alkaloid is morphine, which is a strong analgesicA form of painkilling agent that doesn't induce unconciousness in the patient.
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, capable of numbing severe pain. It is an effective constipantThe opposite of a laxative. Constipants are administered to reduce or prevent the occurance of a loose stool.
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and depresses respiration. Codeine is a minor opium alkaloid, which is a less powerful painkiller but is more effective at depressing respiration. It is now manufactured synthetically, the respiration depressant being effective for use in cough medicines. Heroin is a highly addictive synthetic drug produced specifically as a euphoriant.

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Opiates and your body

Mentally, opiates produce a sensation of euphoria in the user. This sensation of well being is highly addictive and leads to dependence with repeated use. Prescription opiates are designed to decrease the body's sensitivity to pain, with varying degrees of euphoric side effects.

Opiates and pregnancy

Research so far has not shown a link between opiate use and birth defects. But, there are a number of symptoms, which can be linked to poor nutrition, and lack of prenatal care.

These include a wide variety of congenital abnormalitiesAny abnormality which is present at birth. Also called birth defects, they can arise from genetic inheritance or acquired during gestation through disease or drugs.
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and complications during pregnancy. If you use opiates you face a high risk of premature labor, intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR), preeclampsia and other symptoms.

Opiates and your baby

If you use opiates your baby may become addicted to them while still in the uterus. After birth your baby may experience withdrawal symptoms.