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Pregnancy is a major period of transition in one’s life that is filled with wide ranging emotions. Along with the typical strains and stressors that can accompany pregnancy, individuals that simultaneously struggle with addiction while pregnant are exposed to a myriad of additional potential psychological, physical and emotional challenges, dangers, and risks. Pregnancy is a highly emotional time in one’s life. For individuals that have previously struggled with substance abuse and/ or addiction leaning on drugs and/ or alcohol may seem like a viable coping mechanism, but it can lead to severe consequences. 

Effects of Drugs: Mother and Baby

There are many different effects that drugs can have on both mother and baby when a pregnant woman abuses drugs and/ or alcohol. The adverse effects will vary as they depend on many different contributing factors. The type of substance or substances abused, the length of time an individual abused drugs, the potency of the substance abused, the personal health history of the individual, gestational age when commencing drug abuse, gestational age when stopping drug abuse, and the presence of any co-morbid disorders will all contribute to the various effects that may manifest in baby and/ or mother. While there are many potential effects that can develop in direct relation to certain abused substances, there are several general risk factors and possible effects that can occur as a result of abusing any substance pregnancy. Some examples, as provided by WebMD include, but are not limited to the following effects:

  • Fetal development delays
  • Heart attacks
  • Respiratory failure
  • Strokes
  • Seizures 
  • Birth defects
  • Underweight babies
  • Stillborn births
  • Premature babies
  • Brain damage
  • Death 
  • Developmental delays
  • Heart defects
  • Placenta problems

In addition to the above examples, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, babies that are born to mothers who abused drugs and/ or alcohol while pregnant are at increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It is important to note that, the development of adverse effects can diminish when a mother ceases to abuse drugs and/ or alcohol while pregnant. Meaning, even if a woman finds out she is pregnant and has been abusing drugs and/ or alcohol, she should not continue under the assumption that her baby has or will undoubtedly develop adverse effects regardless of her subsequent actions. Every day a pregnant female does not abuse drugs and/ or alcohol during pregnancy reduces the propensity for developing adverse effects relating to substance abuse. 

Treatment For Pregnant Women

There are specialized treatment options for individuals struggling with addiction while pregnant. The effects of engaging in substance abusing behaviors while pregnant can lead to both short-term and long-term adverse effects for both mother and baby. The safest option for an individual struggling with addiction while pregnant is to get help in the form of a substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment program as soon as possible. There are inpatient and outpatient substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment programs available. Inpatient programs require an individual to reside at the treatment facility for the duration of the program. While outpatient programs allow the participant to reside at home for the duration of the program, provided they are present for and attend a certain number of predetermined program hours, daily. Every individual is different and should consider her specific needs when determining which type of treatment program may be the best fit. In these situations, it is, however, of utmost importance to select a treatment program that is fully equipped to provide specified substance abuse and addiction support for a pregnant woman struggling with addiction. 

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one in regards to substance abuse and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one.