Pregnancy and Addiction: It’s More Prevalent Than You Think

When we see images of expectant moms, the picture painted is one of wholesomeness and healthy glows. However, according to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 5.4 percent of pregnant women between the ages of 15-44 reported actively using illicit drugs. This compared to 11.4 percent of non-pregnant women of child-bearing ages. This survey doesn’t account for prescription drugs that may be misused by a mother-to-be.

For an expectant mom, the need to kick the habit is twice as important since another life is physically impacted by his or her mother’s addiction. If you’re pregnant and have a problem with substance abuse, the time to get help is now. The sooner you are able to kick your habit, the sooner you’ll be able to reduce the many risks to your baby, prenatal and postnatal.

Our Rehab-Finder.Org counselors are ready to assist you in finding a treatment center that specializes in maternal care. Call us at 877-251-4813. We’re available 24/7.

How Drug Use Impacts an Unborn Baby

The expression “eating for two” is well recognized with regard to pregnant women. However, fewer people recognize how everything an expectant mother ingests transfers to her unborn child. In fact, almost all foods, beverages, and especially drugs can travel through the placenta, the direct lifeline from the mother to the baby. When a woman is using illicit drugs in particular, dangerous compounds can cross the placenta and have adverse effects on the child. In addition, these drugs can cause damage to the placenta itself, which can interfere with the baby’s ability to get key nutrients or eliminate waste.

When a woman abuses drugs during pregnancy, she increases her chances of experiencing devastating complications, including:

  • Miscarriage
  • Premature labor
  • Placental abruption (a particularly dangerous situation in which the placenta separates from the uterus)
  • Stillbirth

Drug use by the mother also puts babies at risk of developmental problems including:

  • Deformities of the face, such as cleft palate
  • Deformities of the skull, such as an abnormally small head
  • Low fetal birth weight
  • Neurological defects

Neonatal abstinence syndrome is of particular concern with regard to babies born to women who have been abusing drugs. Also known as NAS, in this situation, the child is born addicted to whatever substance his or her mom was using during pregnancy. There has been an alarming increase in the number of newborns addicted to opioids such as heroin or Oxycodone in particular.

With NAS, newborns begin to experience severe withdrawal symptoms within 24 to 72 hours post-birth. Their immature brains and nervous systems must now adjust to the loss of the chemicals to which they were exposed during prenatal development. This can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Fever
  • Excessive or high-pitched crying
  • Irritability
  • Feeding difficulties like abnormal sucking reflex
  • Sleeping problems
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizures and tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) increases dramatically for babies whose mothers used drugs during pregnancy. In fact, various studies have shown that the risk is upwards of twice as high for these children compared to those born of mothers who abstained from substances.

The problems for these children can last a lifetime. Babies exposed in utero to drugs have an increased risk of developmental delays, learning problems, and behavioral disorders.

Drugs and Breastfeeding: What You Need to Know

Breastfeeding is generally considered to be the best option for providing a baby with the nutrients he or she needs to get a great start on life. Once a baby is born, if the mother is planning to breastfeed it is important to recognize that many substances will pass from the mom to the child through breast milk. Essentially, the baby is ingesting these drugs as he or she is getting nourishment. Depending on the drug used and the amount absorbed in the breast milk, this can have some serious consequences.

“Even if you are not planning to breastfeed, using drugs while caring for an infant can be a dangerous combination.”

For example, marijuana can lead to motor-development delays, while babies exposed to cocaine through breastmilk can become extremely irritable, tremble, vomit, and have diarrhea. Methadone, which is often given to heroin addicts, can cause devastating withdrawal effects on nursing infants.

There is no safe formula for determining how long substances will remain in breastmilk and risk being transferred to the baby. Therefore, the best answer is to not use drugs while breastfeeding.

Even if you are not planning to breastfeed, using drugs while caring for an infant can be a dangerous combination. There are already plenty of challenges you will face as newborns demand your constant attention, especially during the first weeks and months of life. Getting high can impact your attention and judgment, which is already strained due to sleep disruptions. This can lead to tragic consequences such as leaving the baby unattended, forgetting feedings, or generally creating an unsafe environment. The best environment for a newborn is one in which he or she has his or her mom’s full attention. He or she needs a mom who is clean and sober.

If you’re an expectant or new mom who needs help kicking your drug habit, call us at 877-251-4813. Our trained experts will help you find the right resources to get you clean and sober.

Addiction during pregnancy can be treated

Pregnancy, Depression, and Drug Use: It’s Real

For many women, pregnancy can be both a beautiful time but also stressful. Some women become overwhelmed at the thought of caring for another person. This emotion is especially compounded when the woman is facing challenging financial situations, is experiencing problems with her partner or loved ones, or feels she has no place to turn.

Pregnancy-related hormones can also tip the scales and push a pregnant woman into depression. This puts her at greater risk of using illegal drugs as a form of self-medicating. If you or an expectant mom you know are experiencing the following for more than two weeks, please consider getting help right away:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Increased risk of suicidal thoughts or attempts

Antepartum (before) and postpartum depression are real concerns as they can impact upwards of 25 percent of pregnant women. It’s OK to seek support, as there are safe alternatives to help you feel better while protecting your child.

Getting Help for Substance Abuse While Pregnant

If you’re pregnant and actively using drugs, the time to get help is NOW. By seeking treatment, you reduce the health risks not only to yourself, but your baby. There are many benefits to entering a rehab program at this time:

  • Mitigate the risk of miscarriage and birth defects
  • Improve the mother’s physical and psychological well-being
  • Receive necessary nutrients and fluids for a healthy pregnancy

The key to remember is rehab centers are not one size fits all. For pregnant women in particular, there are special considerations. You’ll need a medical team that can monitor both you and your baby as you undergo withdrawal from the chemicals in your body. As you recover, you should be able to work with a team that specializes in your unique situation.

Some therapies offer better outcomes for babies than others. For example, medically assisted therapies for opioid addictions still come with some risk of NAS, though it’s significantly reduced compared to heroin or Vicodin. It’s important to understand how the recommended treatment will impact your unborn child, so ask plenty of questions about the risks versus benefits, as well as alternative treatment programs.

At, we have access to thousands of treatment centers in the U.S. We can help place you in one that is able to support maternal care as well as addiction recovery. Our team will assess your financial situation and insurance coverage to find what works best for your budget as well as your care needs. If the best program is outside of your city or state, we’ll assist with your travel arrangements as well.

You may wish to ask some of the following questions to assess whether a treatment center is prepared to serve your maternity needs:

  • What general treatment plan does this facility specialize in and what impact will this have on a growing fetus?
  • Is this a residential or outpatient plan? If it’s residential, is the staff and facility equipped to handle maternity patients?
  • Will I have access to prenatal services, such as obstetricians, nutritionists, and pediatricians?
  • Will I have access to social workers and therapists who can help set the stage for a better life post-treatment?
  • What is this facility’s success rate in treating pregnant women suffering from drug addiction?
  • What have been the overall outcomes for moms and babies?
  • Are there peer support groups that include other expectant moms?
  • Is there family counseling available?

Remember, you want to select a treatment facility that is capable of caring for two patients: you and your unborn baby. You want to work with a staff that is compassionate to your needs and understands addiction is a disease. You want a program that is safe for both of you and puts you on the path to a healthy life together.

Aftercare Matters

Your recovery period doesn’t end when your rehabilitation program ends. Aftercare is the ticket to sustaining a healthy, drug-free life. Therefore, it’s important that any program you participate in includes support as you move forward with daily living.

Effective aftercare programs generally include:

  • Access to a support group or 12-step program for continual reinforcement
  • Access to counseling, such as therapists or peer counselors/sponsors
  • Possible transitional housing in a sober living environment (if treatment was in a residential program)
  • Referrals to prenatal and postnatal services such as obstetricians, pediatricians and other medical professionals who have experience working with pregnant women and infants born to them
  • Referrals for social-assistance programs (affordable housing, childcare, transportation, education)

Remember, lasting recovery requires support from family, friends, and those who are experienced with aftercare. Therefore, you want to consider what resources are available to you going forward. Relapses are common with recovering addicts, especially when they are faced with life situations that are reminiscent of those that originally triggered the drug abuse. This can be magnified by the added responsibilities that come with parenthood. By participating in programs and continued counseling, you set yourself up for long-term success.

Pregnant women who are recovering from drug addiction and participate in aftercare increase their likelihood of:

  • Reduced substance use
  • Sustained abstinence from drugs
  • Increased motivation to seek prenatal care and maintain health during pregnancy
  • Better bonding with baby post-delivery
  • Less instances of depression, anxiety, or other mental-health concerns
  • Less engagement in risky behaviors
  • Increased positive attitude toward parenting
  • Fewer legal or employment issues

Our Rehab-Finder.Org counselors will assist you in finding a program that includes aftercare so that your transition to healthy, clean living is smoother and sustainable. We have access to thousands of facilities in our network and can point you toward those that best meet your needs.

Call us now at 877-251-4813! We’re available 24/7 to help you get the treatment you need. Remember, our services are cost-free to you.

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