Many problem drinkers try to stay sober when they learn they’re pregnant, so they won’t damage their unborn child. However, an unplanned pregnancy can cause these women to be unprepared for cravings, which makes it easier to relapse. Even if pregnant women have the best of intentions, their cravings may overcome their willpower.
During pregnancy, alcohol and drug use can pose serious risks for both the mom and the baby, which is why addiction treatment during and after pregnancy is so important. Treatment can help a mom avoid losing the baby or prevent the baby from having withdrawal symptoms and developmental disabilities.
Effects of Alcohol and Drugs on Prenatal Babies
There’s no doubt that alcohol and drugs can harm a prenatal baby, and they may even cause serious complications for the mother. During pregnancy, the fetus is nourished through the placenta, which is made up of tissues and blood vessels attached to the uterus.
The placenta and the umbilical cord pass oxygen and essential nutrients from the mother to the fetus. As you probably know, healthy nutrients must pass through the placenta, so the fetus is well-nourished. However, if a mother uses alcohol or drugs, toxins can pass through the placenta, which will hurt the fetus. In fact, according to the Merck Manual, a pregnant woman who regularly drinks alcohol is twice as likely to have a miscarriage or give birth to a deformed baby.
Problems for the Baby After Birth
The baby can also suffer problems after childbirth, such as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). In other words, the baby will go through withdrawal symptoms as their body detoxes from the drug the mother was using. It’s quite common for pregnant women who abuse opioids or heroin to suffer this complication, as the toxins pass through the placenta to the fetus.
Withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Lack of appetite
- Sleep problems
As babies get older, they may experience learning problems, developmental delays, and behavioral issues.
Dangerous Drugs During Pregnancy
All drugs ought to be avoided during pregnancy, even most prescriptions. As soon as you learn you’re pregnant, it’s important to consult with a physician about any prescription drug you’re currently taking. Therefore, you’ll be able to see if the medication is safe for the fetus during pregnancy.
These drugs should be avoided during and after pregnancy:
Of course, each drug may have a different effect on the fetus, depending on the amount used, the length of time of the use, and the point when the mother seeks treatment.
Addiction Treatment Options
Stopping the use of alcohol or drugs during pregnancy can reduce complications, such as:
- Placental abruption
- Fetal alcohol syndrome
- Congenital anomalies
- Reduced gestational age
- Neonatal abstinence syndrome
- Low birth weight
- Sudden infant death syndrome
Some pregnant women will shy away from reaching out for professional addiction treatment because they’re afraid of the stigma or legal ramifications. Fortunately, there are alcohol and drug treatment centers that cater to pregnant women.
Specialized Addiction Treatment for Pregnant Women
As a pregnant mother caught up in addiction or relapsing during pregnancy, you have unique needs that need to be treated. Of course, treatment will be unique for each person, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests the following treatment components for pregnant women:
- Your objective is to overcome addition for the long haul. You want to be done using or relapsing forever. Fortunately, evidence-based treatments like individual and group counseling are very helpful in turning this goal into a reality. When you seek addiction treatment, you’ll be able to see a qualified counselor learn valuable relapse prevention skills and coping skills. Furthermore, you can work through some of the issues that may have contributed to the addiction in the first place. Then you can tackle triggers and the roots of your addiction, including trauma and abuse.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) are probably the most common forms of behavioral therapy. They help you tackle any faulty thought patterns and replace them with a positive, healthy mindset. You’d be surprised at how your thoughts influence your emotions and behaviors!
- For those who are addicted to or keep relapsing on drugs like heroin or prescription opioids, detoxing before treatment is necessary. In this case, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may be necessary. It’s a proven, safe way to get off harmful drugs. MAT usually occurs in a residential rehab program that offers round-the-clock supervision by addiction specialists. The actual detox process can last up to seven days. Because you’ve become physically addicted to substances, it can be helpful to take certain medications. For instance, buprenorphine (Suboxone) can help you get through the daunting withdrawal symptoms you may experience during detox.
When you work with a substance abuse professional to manage withdrawal symptoms and taper off those harsh drugs, you’re much more likely to be ready to enter inpatient treatment and keep heading toward success. And when you combine MAT with evidence-based therapies, you may be able to prevent relapsing and create a more wonderful life for your baby.
Once you’ve detoxed and entered inpatient treatment, regular monitoring from your physician and/or addiction specialist can be helpful, as it can target psychological and physical health. Continued treatment is necessary to be able to learn valuable skills and tools that can aid in your recovery. Then you’ll be able to better restore your health and maintain the nutritional needs of your baby.
Legal Issues for Pregnant Women
Some pregnant women are afraid to seek addiction treatment, as they fear they’ll be in trouble with the law.
However, various organizations have continually advocated against putting pregnant women in jail who are struggling with addiction.
Rather, they’re referred to addiction treatment centers to get the help they need.
While pregnant women can still be arrested for drug use, professional help is always available.
Addiction Treatment for Relapsing Mothers
Because of the risks and complications that can arise for a baby when a mother abuses substances during pregnancy, it’s very important to quickly seek treatment. The earlier the mother stops abusing drugs, the more likely it is that the baby will be born healthy.