Abusing drugs or alcohol while pregnant has severe consequences, both for the mother and the baby. While some groups think drug use during pregnancy should be criminalized, others feel that outcomes are better for both babies and mothers when women are freely able to seek treatment without fear of punishment.
Regardless of how drug use during pregnancy is handled in the criminal justice system, one thing is clear: it’s in both the mother’s and the unborn baby’s best interest to get sober as quickly as possible.
Pregnancy and addiction
According to a study published in the journal Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, around 4.4 percent of women abuse illicit substances at some point during the course of a pregnancy. Illicit drugs can have numerous negative health and mental health consequences for both the fetus and the mother, and fear of consequences prevents mothers from seeking proper treatment.
How addiction harms unborn babies
Addiction can impact babies in utero, after birth and have ripple effects for the rest of their lives. Here are some potential risks to a new baby born to a mother who struggled with substance use during pregnancy.
Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is the most common side effect of addiction during pregnancy in the newborn stage. This happens when the baby is born with a dependence on the drug and will immediately go through withdrawal upon birth.
There is also an increased risk of stillbirth. Women who struggle with substance use during pregnancy are up to 2.8 times more likely to have a stillbirth than those who don’t use drugs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
A mother’s addiction can also cause—birth defects, low birth weight, premature birth, small head circumference and sudden infant death syndrome in newborns. A parent’s addiction can also increase the chance that a child will develop a substance use disorder of their own later in life.
How addiction can harm the mother
It’s important to understand how addiction harms an unborn baby, but it’s also noteworthy that the mother will face severe repercussions of addiction, too. Here are some health consequences for addiction during pregnancy:
- Decreased immune system functioning and ability to fight off disease
- Cardiac issues including irregular heartbeat, cardiac arrest and collapsed veins
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe weight loss
- Liver damage or liver failure
- Long term brain damage
- Lung disease
- Difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating and making decisions
- Poor mental health
- Mental health disorders like anxiety and depression
- Overdose and death
Healing from addiction during pregnancy is important for both the mom and the baby. Professional treatment should be catered to meet the unique needs of both the mother and the baby without judgment.
How to overcome an addiction during pregnancy
Addiction during pregnancy is an added layer to an already complex concern. If you’re looking to get help, here are the steps you can take to find freedom from drugs and alcohol:
- Reach out for professional help: call your local substance recovery center to get connected to resources and find a program that works for you
- Put your fears behind you: it’s easy to feel like you’ll get in trouble when the center finds out you’re pregnant, but don’t worry because recovery providers are more interested in your healing and wouldn’t want to see you punished for seeking care
- Build up support around you: the more people you have that you can lean on, the easier long term sobriety will be. Plus, you’ll feel more accountable to the people you love
- Cling to what motivates you: when you’re going through pregnancy and addiction at the same time, you’ll want to stay extra focused on your goal because it’s not just you that’s suffering the consequences right now. You’ll need strong motivation for the next few months
The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to do it all yourself. Once you get in touch with a provider, you’ll be matched with a care team of doctors, therapists or counselors, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses and others who can provide you with the emotional support and resources you need to overcome an addiction.
Healing from an addiction for you and your baby
Getting treatment shouldn’t wait for fear of legal consequences. If you’ve been using drugs during your pregnancy, it’s time to reach out for help now. Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling can connect you to the best resources available and provide counseling for your long term recovery.
Don’t wait another minute to get the care that you and your baby deserve, call Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling today.