HOW DRUGS AND ALCOHOL AFFECT PREGNANT WOMEN
Substance abuse puts your body under a lot of stress, depending on the drug. Throwing pregnancy into the mix adds another layer of potential complications. There is still a lot we don’t know about what substance abuse does to pregnant mothers but there are a few potential risks we do know can occur, including:
- Placental complications, including placental abruption which can cause internal and vaginal bleeding.
- Deep vein thrombosis, which is a condition that involves blot clots in deep veins in the legs, thighs, pelvis, or arm.
- Stillbirth, or when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy, which can lead to medical complications for the mother.
- Antepartum Haemorrhage (APH) or bleeding from the genital tract.
Substance abuse and addiction also can come with a host of other medical and psychological issues. Addicted individuals often have poor dietary health and are more likely to live a high-risk lifestyle to support their addiction. According to the American Psychological association, substance abuse is often associated with other mental health and behavioral disorders.
Finally, there are inherent legal risks associated with illicit drug abuse and even more associated with abusing drugs and drinking while pregnant. Women who use drugs during pregnancy may lose custody of her child or, in some jurisdictions, be criminally prosecuted.
HOW DRUGS AND ALCOHOL AFFECT UNBORN INFANTS
Everything a pregnant mother consumes may be transferred to her child. From Oreos to orange juice, 100 percent of your baby’s nutritional needs are met by its mother's body and food intake. Because of this, mothers who consume illicit drugs or drink alcohol while pregnant often pass addiction on to the infant.
Babies born from addicted mothers are often diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which are symptoms of withdrawal. Infants with NAS need to be weaned off certain drugs like opiates and should be monitored for dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Mothers who used opioids, marijuana, and cocaine may have infants who are anxious, drowsy, and irritable.
If a pregnant woman goes into withdrawal, the risk to the infant is high. Certain drugs like opiates, benzodiazepine, and even alcohol, can have deadly withdrawal symptoms for any person. Mothers and unborn infants are at greater risk of pregnancy complications, birth defects, and infant mortality.
Most drugs pose a significant risk to unborn infants. Even legal non-prescription substances like alcohol and cigarettes can cause the following complications:
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
- Delayed fetal growth
- Low birth weight
- Premature birth
- Respiratory difficulties
Opioid addiction is particularly dangerous to infants. Heroin use during pregnancy can lead to fetal growth restriction, fetal death, abruptio placentae (when the placenta detaches from the womb wall), and preterm labor.
FINDING HELP FIGHTING ADDICTION WHILE PREGNANT
It may sound simple. If you are struggling with addiction and you become pregnant, it’s time to get some help. However, it takes intense self-scrutiny and courage to admit you have a problem and to start looking for help for anyone who has an addiction. For pregnant women, even though it’s that much more important, it can be even more embarrassing and frightening to admit a substance abuse problem due to negative stigma.
Because of the threat of prosecution or loss of custody, many mothers struggling with addiction don’t seek help and try to deal with complications on their own. Others don’t seek treatment because of the prevalence of male focused or mixed treatment programs that don’t specifically deal with complications during pregnancy.
Additionally, when a pregnant woman calls their local hospital for help with addiction recovery, it’s no guarantee that they’ll get the help they need. Hospitals and clinics are reluctant to help pregnant women struggling with addiction.
Withdrawal and addiction are stressful for the unborn and poses a tremendous risk. The process is tricky and expensive, often requiring replacement drugs to wean both mother and child off the addictive substance. To get in the door, some mothers will intentionally go into withdrawal in order to be admitted into emergency rooms.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If addiction is affecting your life and if you have abused or believe you may abuse drugs or alcohol during pregnancy, there is help available. Finding the right treatment program is essential. Drug rehabs that meet the needs of the individual rather than providing one-size-fits-all treatment are available all over the country.
Look for treatment centers that offer gender specific programs and have experience dealing with pregnant women. Don’t let stigma or the judgment of others stop you from getting the help you need.