Suboxone vs Subutex Use During Pregnancy (Opioid Treatment)

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Pregnancy can be a wonderful time of joy and anticipation, but for those battling opioid addiction, it can feel like an uphill battle. Dealing with a substance abuse disorder for expectant mothers can be challenging. But don’t lose hope because medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with Subutex and Suboxone can be the key to breaking free from the chains of addiction. 

Suboxone vs Subutex Use During Pregnancy (Opioid Treatment)

While these medications share similarities, pregnant women must understand their differences to make informed decisions regarding their treatment. In this article, we’ll delve into the topic of Subutex vs. Suboxone treatment and explore their mechanisms and safety during pregnancy, as well as any potential side effects alongside considerations for breastfeeding.

Unraveling the Mechanisms of Subutex and Suboxone

Subutex, or buprenorphine treatment, works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, similar to other opioids. However, its unique property as a partial agonist means it produces a milder opioid effect, reducing the risk of opioid dependence. By stimulating some receptors and blocking others, Subutex helps alleviate cravings and withdrawal symptoms, allowing individuals to focus on their recovery.

Suboxone is a brand name of a medication containing buprenorphine with naloxone, an opioid antagonist. While buprenorphine plays the primary role in reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms, naloxone competently is a safeguard against misuse. 

If Suboxone is injected, naloxone blocks the effects of opioids and can induce withdrawal symptoms, acting as a deterrent to misuse. Adding naloxone to Suboxone helps promote safety and discourages individuals from attempting to misuse the medication.

Safety of Subutex and Suboxone During Pregnancy

In the past, Subutex was widely considered the preferred medication for pregnant women with OUD due to concerns about the potential effects of naloxone on the unborn baby.

However, recent research has indicated that naloxone, when taken as prescribed, has no adverse effects on the outcome of any pregnancy. Due to this recent study, Suboxone has gained recognition as a safe treatment for pregnant women, offering the benefits of both buprenorphine and naloxone.

Both Subutex and Suboxone are classified as category C medications by the Food and Drug Administration during pregnancy, meaning you should mention any potential opioid medications or abuse to your healthcare provider before your pregnancy. 

suboxone pregnancy subutex

This classification doesn’t mean that these drugs are risk-free, it merely indicates that the risks to your unborn child cannot be ruled out, as there is limited data available and it is better to be safe than sorry. Pregnant patients should always weigh the potential benefits against the significant risks and make informed decisions regarding their treatment plans.

You may not know this, but MAT is not an uncommon procedure pregnant people undergo. MAT is widely used with Subutex or Suboxone during pregnancy, as it offers several benefits for both the mother and the baby. By stabilizing the mother’s opioid use, MAT reduces the risk of relapse and helps pregnant patients engage in prenatal care, receive appropriate support, and focus on their overall well-being.

Also note that Suboxone is classed as a Schedule III in states like North Carolina, which means it is a drug with medicinal benefits but a moderate risk of addiction. As a result, only doctors certified by the Department of Health and Human Services are permitted to prescribe Suboxone. So, while suboxone has less abuse potential, the potential is still there.

Side Effects and Considerations

As with any medication, Subutex and Suboxone can also cause rather undesirable side effects. These side effects can pretty much be attributed to buprenorphine, the primary component of both of these medications. The side effects of these buprenorphine-based medications may include dizziness, sedation, nausea, constipation, and mild respiratory depression. 

Don’t worry; the benefits of medication-assisted treatment outweigh the potential side effects, and healthcare practitioners will assist with any discomfort you face. Depending on the specific side effect, they may adjust the buprenorphine dose, provide supportive medication, or even switch your current medication so you’ll stop facing any issues. Communicate openly and freely with your healthcare providers, and don’t hesitate to ask for what you deserve!

Although serious side effects are uncommon, it is critical to be aware of the signs and severe symptoms that could be a cause for concern, such as severe respiratory distress, fetal distress, palpitations, fever, or allergic reactions, so make sure you immediately contact your healthcare provider if you ever face any health problem.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and Considerations

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) refers to withdrawal symptoms experienced by newborns exposed to opioids in the womb. While Subutex and Suboxone can contribute to the development of NAS, it is essential to note that the severity and duration of NAS are generally milder compared to full opioid agonists such as methadone or heroin. The presence of buprenorphine, a partial agonist, helps mitigate the intensity of withdrawal symptoms in newborn babies.

Pregnant women on Subutex or Suboxone should receive comprehensive prenatal care and regular monitoring throughout their pregnancy. Healthcare providers will closely observe the new mother's progress and ensure her safety. There’s no need to worry about the baby, as they’ll also evaluate the baby's well-being and check for birth defects and assess any signs of NAS. 

This monitoring will help ensure that appropriate interventions and support are provided to both the mother and the baby to help keep them both safe and healthy, and also ensure that any treatment of neonatal abstinence syndrome is done swiftly.

Additionally, when considering breastfeeding while on Subutex or Suboxone, you may want to consult medical professionals beforehand because the drug buprenorphine, the active ingredient in both medications, can pass into breast milk in minimal amounts. 

While some studies do suggest that breastfeeding while using these medications is generally safe, as the levels of buprenorphine in breast milk are low and unlikely to cause significant effects in infants, others claim that individual circumstances may vary. Healthcare providers can provide personalized guidance to pregnant women.

Choosing Between Subutex and Suboxone: Factors to Consider

Here are some aspects you should consider when choosing between Subutex or Suboxone:

Medical History and Sensitivity: Discuss your medical history with your doctor. If you have a known sensitivity or allergy to any of the components in Suboxone, such as the naloxone component, Subutex may be a more suitable option.

Risk of Misuse: Suboxone with naloxone is a deterrent to misuse. If you’re concerned about the potential for misuse or if you are uncertain about your ability to resist using opioids, Suboxone may provide an extra layer of protection that suits your needs better than Subutex.

Physician Recommendations and Expertise: Your healthcare provider’s experience and history in treating substance use disorders during pregnancy should also be taken into account because both of these aspects can tell you more about your specific situation. So, openly discuss your concerns and preferences with your doctors.

Remember, the choice between Subutex and Suboxone is not a one-size-fits-all decision because everyone’s needs differ. What works for one individual may not work for you. It’s never really as simple as that, anyway.

Ultimately, the end goal you should be working towards is to find a treatment option that effectively manages your opioid use disorder and is the right fit for you and your baby. With the right medication and effective treatment plan, you can fully navigate your recovery journey on your own and ensure the best possible outcomes for both you and your child. Don’t lose hope; perseverance is the key to success!


Congratulations! You should be fully aware of the difference between Subetex and Suboxone. Any pregnant woman seeking medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction should be aware of what both medications can offer them, but never make these decisions without your healthcare providers.

Always weigh the potential risks and benefits after speaking with medical professionals. 

With the right guidance and medical monitoring, pregnant women can breathe a huge sigh of relief and embark on a journey of recovery, ensuring the health and well-being of both themselves and their newborn babies.

Please consult a medical professional before taking any drugs during pregnancy. Sober Speak does not give medical advice nor is a medical professional.