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Pregnancy and Addiction

Posted on November 19, 2021

Becoming pregnant while living with a substance use disorder creates a different kind of urgency for treatment. Expectant mothers and their unborn babies both face numerous risks when drug or alcohol use continues. Let’s look at some of the most significant risks and identify the unique needs of pregnant women with SUDs.

Drinking or drug use during pregnancy can lead to serious health risks for both expectant mother and child. The risks can even include such serious harm to brain development and sudden infant death syndrome.

Women receiving treatment while pregnant have unique needs to protect both themselves and their babies. A medically-supervised detox can help reduce the risk of withdrawal symptoms. Treatment of a newborn who’s dependent on substances typically occurs immediately in the hospital.

Risks of Drug and Alcohol Use during Pregnancy

Drug or alcohol use can affect every stage of development for a baby. Any impact on brain development can show up in how a baby grows in the womb, and how they later communicate, think, and behave. The effects can be short-term or long-term.

Low birth weight and miscarriage are among the short-term risks. These outcomes can be the result of the change in the quality of the nutrients that get passed from mother to baby. The risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) increases in mothers who drink or do drugs.

Use of different substances can lead to different long-term results once a baby is born:

  • The babies of mothers who smoke marijuana may develop attention issues, lower visual perceptual abilities, and behavior problems.
  • Babies whose mothers drink regularly may show poor physical growth, lower intelligence, attention problems, and academic underachievement.
  • Babies whose mothers use cocaine may show lower intelligence, issues with attention, language, and executive functions, as well as emotional and behavioral problems.

Even prescription drugs taken by expectant mothers can threaten the health of a fetus. A baby born to a woman who’s addicted to opioids can be dependent on the drug, too. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome can develop in these infants. Treatment immediately after delivery is critical. During treatment, a baby may be hard to soothe and show other signs of NAS. Long-term issues tied to NAS include hearing, vision, learning, and behavior problems.

Unique Needs of Pregnant Women with Substance Abuse Disorders

Women who attempt to quit using drugs or alcohol while pregnant may experience a variety of symptoms that can affect the health and wellness of both mother and baby.

These symptoms include

  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever

The list of potential withdrawal symptoms also includes sleeping issues, irritability, rapid breathing, and muscle spasms.

A pregnant woman with a substance use disorder will benefit from a medically-supervised detox. This option allows the medical team to monitor an expectant mother and fetus 24/7. A medically-supervised detox reduces the risks associated with alcohol or drug withdrawal.

After detox, a treatment program can help reduce the risk of serious complications and long-term impact connected to substance use. The effects can include facial and skull deformities, neurological defects, and fetal alcohol syndrome. For babies born to mothers still using, the experience of withdrawal symptoms can begin with a day or two and affect their brains and nervous systems.

A pregnant woman who chooses treatment can receive care that integrates care for her unborn baby along the way. The sooner she begins treatment in a program, the lower the risks overall for both mother and baby.

In addition to treatment for substance use, a diagnosis of a co-occurring mental health disorder can help an expectant mother. Learning how to respond to anxiety, depression, or trauma in healthy ways will be an important part of self-care and care for a newborn.

Origins Alumni Offer Hope and Testimonies

There’s a great advantage in listening to other mothers who have experienced treatment while pregnant. Their stories are valuable. They provide inspiration, encouragement, and hope to new mothers who are facing similar circumstances now.

Origins’ alumni program makes the stories of these women accessible. They’re women of different ages, backgrounds, and beliefs. The common thread is they all experienced a need to get sober and found a starting point in an Origins program.

You may be pregnant with a first child or have several children already. Wherever you are as a parent, support from other women will always be important. Hearing from people who have been where you are is a helpful way to get on the road to recovery.

Testimonies from these women cover some of the common challenges of being pregnant while living with a substance use disorder. They also include other factors of trying to get sober. It may be having little family support or enduring a codependent relationship. Another topic may be overcoming the loss of a job or career.

These testimonies serve to remind every woman who needs treatment to stay sober and protect her unborn child that it’s possible to accomplish both.

Peer support groups are a major factor in helping anyone with substance use problems recognize how widespread they are and how others have found solutions for sober living. A new mother in her early twenties and a mother in her thirties can both connect with people in their peer groups. Finding others who faced similar challenges can be comforting and even empowering.

Origins Behavioral Healthcare is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety.

For information on our programs, call us today: 844-843-8935.