Pregnancy can be one of the most exciting and special time in a woman’s life; however, it can also be a frightening, overwhelming and dangerous time, particularly for addicts. Addiction can strike anyone at any time, and pregnant women are not exempt.
The good news is that pregnant addicts are not without hope or help. Addiction treatment programs for pregnant women are designed to help them safely overcome their substance abuse issues in order to embrace addiction-free life as a new mother.
About Addiction and Pregnancy
The health risks of addiction are many. For pregnant women, the risks are multiplied and also impact the baby, as well. Factor in the likelihood of co-occurring mental health issues, including everything from depression to eating disorders, and the threats to mom and baby rise.
When a baby is growing inside its mother, substances that the mother consumes can be transferred to the baby. This includes alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, all of which pass through the placenta to the developing baby, leading to serious problems.
The takeaway for women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant is that living a substance-free life is critical to ensuring the health and well being of mother and baby alike.
Understanding the Risks
Hundreds of thousands of pregnant woman in the U.S. use illicit drugs every year. As a result, thousands of babies are born dependent on those substances.
While doctors are still learning the full extent to which drug addiction impacts human health during pregnancy, abundant research points to the profound dangers associated with alcohol, drug, and tobacco use, including miscarriage and stillbirth, placental abruption, premature labor and birth, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which may cause premature labor, low birth weight, and small body size. In the case of NAS, babies must also go through medical detoxification.
Furthermore, addiction can also cause a breadth and depth of other birth defects, such as SIDS, microencephaly, low birth weight (which may include a number of other issues, including breathing, heart, intestinal, vision, and brain bleeding, and may also lead to future health issues, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes), and development and behavioral problems.
At the same time, there are also grave risks to addicted moms-to-be, including bone loss, liver damage, kidney damage, lung damage, heart attack, infections, stroke, seizure, coma, respiratory failure, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, insomnia, memory problems, increased risk of cancer, and a weakened immune system.
Substance Abuse Treatment for Pregnant Addicts
Pregnant women can mitigate these risks through positive lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, prenatal supplements, and adequate rest. However, even with these preventative measures in place, complications are still a risk. Enter substance abuse treatment programs for mothers-to-be.
Not only do these programs address addiction issues specific to pregnant women, but many are capable of treating addiction and its co-occurring disorders together toward the most positive outcomes. Because each woman’s situation is different, the best treatment and rehab programs will assess the individual’s unique situation, factoring in issues including the type of addiction, stage of pregnancy, and the existence of co-occurring disorders. A treatment program will then be customized for the mother’s individual needs.
In addition to close monitoring during detoxification and behavioral counseling, effective substance abuse programs for pregnant women also include an educational component aimed at helping them fully comprehend the dire consequences of using during pregnancy.
Get the Help You Need
Unfortunately, many addicted women fail to seek addiction treatment because they are afraid of the legal consequences. Not only does this ultimately do more harm than good by facilitating use, but it is also a misguided move. Organizations ranging from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to the American Society of Addiction Medicine advocate against incarcerating mothers-to-be who suffer from addiction.
One last thing to keep in mind is that recovery is an ongoing process. Just because a woman conquers her addiction in the safe environment of a drug rehab program does not negate the chance of relapse. In order to best support the chances of lasting, long-term recovery, women substance abuse treatment follow-ups, such as support groups and therapy, can play a vital role in helping mothers continue to lead healthy, addiction-free lives.
We’re Here to Help
Acknowledging the importance of this “continuum of care” is an invaluable part of Harris House’s successful St. Louis rehab programs. To learn more about how our programs and treatments can help moms-to-be and aspiring moms-to-be, contact Harris House today.