Pregnancy and Addiction Concerns and Statistics

Drug addiction and abuse are incredibly serious disorders. Abusing illegal and prescription drugs can cause a range of physical and mental side effects that can lead to permanent health consequences and irreversible damage. When a woman is pregnant and addicted to drugs, she not only risks her own health but the health of her unborn child as well. It’s critical that women who are pregnant or wish to become pregnant can get access to treatment for drug addiction before it’s too late. The following article will explore the statistics on pregnancy and addiction, and where a pregnant woman can go for help for drug addiction.

What happens when a woman who is addicted to drugs becomes pregnant?

Anyone who is addicted to drugs needs specialized, integrated treatment methods and plans to overcome the disease. But for pregnant women, their needs are even more pronounced and nuanced.

It’s understandable that a pregnant woman would fear the repercussions of having her drug addiction exposed, but it’s safer to recover from substance use disorder for both mom and baby than it is to continue using drugs and giving birth while addicted.

Concerns with Pregnancy and Addiction

Giving birth while struggling with drug addiction can lead to serious physical complications during pregnancy and lead to emergency medical situations during childbirth that is hazardous to the mother’s health. For the baby, being exposed to drugs or alcohol while in utero increases the risk of:

  • Miscarriage and stillbirth
  • Severe developmental and cognitive delays
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
  • Behavioral issues and delays

Also, continuing to use and abuse drugs while pregnant puts the mother at risk of violence, crime, infectious diseases, and legal prosecution. Despite these serious consequences, many pregnant women continue to use drugs before giving birth. 5.4% of pregnant women use drugs, while 11.4% of non-pregnant women use drugs.

Women who are addicted to drugs or alcohol and become pregnant must have access to confidential, compassionate care from their physicians. Treating addiction as a disease rather than a lifestyle choice or a character flaw can encourage pregnant women to seek help for the disorder, and improve health outcomes for both the mother and child.

Although a handful of states have enacted laws to prosecute substance abuse while pregnant as a form of child abuse, physicians groups such as The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have spoken out against these harsh, punitive laws. The majority of healthcare professionals and rehabilitation centers will provide confidential and compassionate care to pregnant women who are looking for help recovering from addiction. The majority of physicians and clinicians want to maximize their patient’s chances of having a healthy pregnancy and child.

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Unfortunately, addiction to opiates and methamphetamine for pregnant women is on the rise in the U.S. Addiction rates to these drugs for pregnant women are most pronounced in rural areas, where access to treatment facilities as well as prenatal care facilities is limited.

Methamphetamine use during pregnancy produces much worse outcomes for mothers than opiate use during pregnancy. The odds of mothers dying in childbirth or experiencing severe complications during pregnancy and childbirth are twice as high than for moms addicted to opiates. Meth addiction during pregnancy increases the risks of dangerous conditions such as preterm delivery, preeclampsia and eclampsia, heart failure, and heart attacks. Moms who use meth while pregnant risk needing a blood transfusion during childbirth.

For babies born to women addicted to meth, the most significant health outcome is neonatal abstinence syndrome, where the babies go through methamphetamine withdrawals. These symptoms include tremors, respiratory issues, gastrointestinal issues, and fevers and sweating that can last for up to six months after the child is born. Babies born to methamphetamine-addicted women usually need to stay in a neonatal intensive care unit for several weeks or months.

Opioid use during pregnancy is highest in the rural Northeastern U.S. About 3% of births in this area experience complications related to maternal opiate use. Research has found that low-income, rural white women on public assistance are the most likely to abuse either methamphetamine or opiates while pregnant. Unfortunately, many addicted pregnant women are polydrug abusers who also use marijuana and tobacco, which makes complications to the infant and mother more pronounced.

Babies born to moms who use opiates while pregnant are born addicted to the drug and will go through withdrawals similar to methamphetamine-addicted babies. These infants will need to stay in a neonatal intensive care unit for an extended period until withdrawals cease. Opiate babies may also be born with defects in the spinal cord.

How should pregnant women be treated for addiction to drugs or alcohol?

Getting treatment for substance while pregnant significantly improves health outcomes for the mother and child. The risk of miscarriage, childbirth complications, and congenital disabilities are reduced once a woman begins to treat her addiction. Also, getting treatment for addiction improves the mother’s physical and emotional health, which can ease the transition to motherhood and help her to bond more strongly with her baby.

Drug addiction often leads to dehydration and nutritional deficiencies. Pregnant women need lots of fluids, and they also have increased needs for many vital nutrients to sustain a healthy pregnancy. During drug or alcohol detox, women can get access to nutritional counseling and will also be able to flush their system of substances that can lead to insufficient hydration and dietary deficiencies.

In a rehab facility, moms-to-be can get access to a specialized and experienced healthcare team that can help them obtain the necessary social services and prenatal care they need. The doctors, therapists, and social workers in a rehab center can also refer pregnant women to obstetricians and pediatricians to ensure a safe pregnancy, delivery, and ensure that their child has access to routine medical care.

After giving birth, many pregnant women will need help obtaining affordable, safe housing, childcare, and possibly need occupational counseling. Staying in a rehab facility can put women in touch with the services they need after giving birth.

If you or someone you care about is pregnant and struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, it’s imperative for the health of both mom and baby to get treatment. Please contact the representatives at Windward Way rehab facility today to explore your options for addiction treatment while pregnant.


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