What You Need To Know About Pregnancy & Addiction : Using drugs, alcohol or tobacco can have detrimental consequences to anyone’s health, but specific concerns come into play for a pregnant woman with a growing child. Not only is the health of the woman and child at risk, but pregnant women can have unique problems when addiction is an issue.
About 40,000 cases of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) happen each year. One baby is diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) every 19 minutes in this country. It was found that 15.9% of pregnant women smoked cigarettes; 8.5% used alcohol; and 5.9% had used illicit drugs — including opioids, cocaine and marijuana.
While most mothers-to-be will avoid these substances, women who struggle with addiction may have a harder time quitting — despite knowing the risks involved.
Below, we’ll expound upon some of the challenges expecting mothers face when they have an addiction or are in the recovery process.
Pregnancy Emotions and Factors May Amplify Substance Use Problems
Pregnancy can certainly create heightened emotions due to the hormonal changes the woman is experiencing. However, a woman who learns she is pregnant can also face more stress and emotional upset relative to family or romantic relationships, preparing for a child, and even living situations or material conditions.
An unplanned pregnancy can add a great deal of stress to an already difficult situation with a substance abuse problem. Women with an addiction may face several factors that amplify stress and worry. These individuals may be dealing with the ramifications of the addiction — such as poor personal relationships, financial problems or health issues. This added stress can be a stumbling block in recovery efforts and make relapse more probable, but can also make it increasingly difficult for a pregnant woman to commit to sobriety in spite of the dangers she may fully understand.
Stigma and Fear Can Lead to Lack of Prenatal Care
Social stigma and guilt are already major issues for women with addiction. During pregnancy, these feelings of guilt, shame and fear of getting labeled can be even stronger. Mothers-to-be with a substance abuse issue can be viewed in a harsher light than other people in health care settings. A certain level of care provider bias can only make a pregnant woman with a substance abuse problem feel worse.
Some women may avoid seeking critical prenatal care if they have a substance abuse problem for fear of judgment, losing their child upon birth, or even legal punishment in some states. Plus, a negative experience during pregnancy may prevent the woman from trusting professionals who offer substance abuse treatment.
Pregnant Women May Be Using Drugs to Self-Medicate More Often Than Most
Self-medicating due to mental illness or past trauma is common among people with addiction, but it may be even more of a prevalent problem among pregnant women. One study of expecting mothers entering a substance abuse treatment program recorded the following:
- As much as 73 percent had dealt with physical abuse
- 71 percent had experienced emotional abuse
- 45 percent had a history of sexual abuse
- 36 percent had been the victim of all three types of abuse
Where and How to Find Help for Addiction During Pregnancy
The social stigma against expecting mothers can be unwarranted. Lack of understanding of addiction often leads to unfair labeling and worsening the risks of substance use or abuse for the mother. A pregnant woman can have more motivation than ever to stop using drugs or alcohol. Some women may even be able to stop using without treatment, but most need help.
If you know someone who is pregnant and addicted — or you are in this position — seeking help from a qualified professional is best. Working toward recovery during pregnancy can give the unborn child the greatest chance of survival. The mother gets a powerful motivation to achieve a life of sobriety for the sake of her child. For further insights, be sure to review the accompanying resource.
Tammy Cate is the founder and CEO of Transformations By The Gulf, a leading drug rehab facility. Cate is passionate about helping others lead a sober and fulfilling life. She maintains a hands-on rapport with staff and residents to ensure everyone is able to receive an individualized experience.
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