Addicted and Pregnant

With the opioid crisis raging across states and media headlines in the US, public awareness of drug abuse and addiction has rarely, if ever, been higher. This means that more is being done now to prevent future addiction and to provide more accessible, and affordable treatment options for those who are already addicted than ever before. Despite these efforts, the numbers of people with drug abuse, or addiction problems in the US continue to rise. Clearly, more must be done. There are even more and more new mothers nowadays that are addicted and pregnant that desperately need help for themselves and their unborn child.

Some actions that may help to fight this national health emergency could be:

  • In the medical field, they could stop creating new addicts with the over-prescription of powerfully addictive opioid painkillers and put systems in place to identify who may need help.
  • In the law enforcement community prevention of the manufacture, importation, and distribution of illicit street versions of these drugs.
  • And on the State and Federal Government levels by researching and implementing further effective measures to prevent future addiction, and expanding the available effective treatment options for those who are already addicted.

With these actions and others, we may be able to turn the trends around, and more importantly, save countless lives of current and future drug addicts.

However, for so many Americans across all of the states and regions of our country, the struggle continues, and for them, their families, and loved ones, it is not about the news, headlines, or statistics. It is a genuine, and deeply personal struggle for their lives, freedom, and happiness.

There is another group that drug use, abuse, and addiction affects in a unique and tragic way.  The group that is seldom talked about but needs to be better understood and that is pregnant women and their unborn children.

This can be a very sensitive and even emotional subject, but in this article, we will merely cover the data, information, problems, and potential solutions.

What are the Concerns and Issues Unique to Prenatal Addiction?

It goes without saying that for the mother, all of the standard risks of addiction are in effect, but for the child exposed to these harmful and addictive chemicals in their system during the most critical time of their body’s development, there can be many additional adverse effects.

In the medical field, when a prenatal child is exposed to drugs, or substances like alcohol while in the womb it is called “fetal drug exposure.” Being addicted and pregnant can have severe negative consequences on the child and mother.

The effects of drugs on prenatal development can include:

  • Being addicted and pregnant can cause stunted growth, or low birth weight caused by blood vessels in the placenta constricting the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. The average birth weight of a baby who was prenatally exposed to drugs is around four pounds. Three pounds less than the average for a healthy, drug-free baby which is seven pounds.
  • Abortive complications such as stillbirth or miscarriage. The risk of having a miscarriage nearly doubles for those who drink alcohol during pregnancy, especially if they drink heavily.
  • Specific physical disorders such as fetal alcohol syndrome, or fetal drug syndrome. These refer to a group of irreversible physical and mental developmental disorders found to affect a percentage of children whose mothers took drugs or alcohol during their pregnancy. This can also include the regular use of medically prescribed drugs.
  • Abnormal physical development or birth defects.
  • Retardation of mental development and intellectual disability.
  • With some drugs that cause users to develop dependence, and cause withdrawal symptoms, the baby may go through a detox and withdrawal when it is born and physically separated from its mother and the supply of the drugs.

It is estimated that over fifty percent of pregnant women will use some form of harmful drug or substance during their pregnancy. That number sounds alarmingly high, but it factors in all sorts of substances and doses.

Here is a more in-depth estimate, that is broken down by the number of pregnant women using specific drugs in the United States:

  • 122,000 estimated pregnant users of marijuana.
  • 96,000 people who used cocaine during their pregnancy.
  • 47,000 pregnant users of other illicit drugs like heroin.
  • 25,000 users of prescription painkillers.
  • 11,000 people used tranquilizers or sleep aids while pregnant.
  • It is estimated that around ten percent of pregnant mothers drank alcohol at least once during their pregnancy and that one out of every 33 pregnant women binge drank while pregnant.

Keep in mind that these numbers are from the year 2014, and have only gone up since then, especially for opiate painkiller abuse.

What To Do if You're Addicted and Pregnant

Apparently, the use of any drugs or harmful substances is strongly discouraged, and far more so when one is pregnant because of the effects, it has on the baby. However, drug addiction is a powerful force that often involves a strong, and overpowering craving or compulsion to get and continue using the drug.

For anyone who is addicted and wants to stop taking drugs, or for those who are addicted and pregnant, or become addicted while pregnant, it is very often not as simple as knowing the information and deciding to stop.

Because of the harmful effects of drugs on both the mother and the child, it is clear that the best course is to get off of the drugs. However, since every case is different, and there are so many different drugs that could affect the baby in different ways, there is no set or standard way to treat a pregnant mother who is addicted to drugs.

It is recommended that anyone in this condition seek immediate medical help so that the drug or drugs they are addicted to and their circumstances can be assessed, and a plan can be developed that will be the best and safest for both the mother and her baby.

After receiving a medical evaluation and getting the OK, a detox and withdrawal period is almost always the first step in addiction recovery. It is often recommended that this is done in an inpatient medically supervised environment for the safety of the individual, and this is even more so in the case of a pregnant woman to ensure minimal risk to her and her child.

After the detox and withdrawal, most programs have some form of system to help the individual stay sober and drug-free going forward with their lives.

One of the addiction treatment options for pregnant women is:

Twelve Step for pregnant women. These programs are tailored specifically for pregnant women and are often more appropriate for pregnant women than traditional Twelve Step programs.

There are many other treatment options, and no matter which one is right for you, the most important thing is that you find one that works for you, and get yourself and your child off of the drugs. There has never been a time where drug addiction has been more prevalent in our society.

However, the good news is that there has also never been more understanding of addiction or a better time to get help for those who need help getting through a drug addiction either.

If you or someone you know is addicted and pregnant, the very best thing that you or they can do is to seek help as quickly as possible so that they and their unborn child can live the best lives possible. Call New Beginnings toll-free today for more information on being addicted and pregnant, or if you would like more information on how to help yourself or a loved one overcome addiction.

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