Substance addiction among pregnant women has become a public health concern in the United States. Around five percent of pregnant women use one or more addictive substances. While most people likely recognize that this is not a good thing, not many people understand how substance use affects these women and their unborn children. Pregnant women with substance use disorders also encounter more stigma than other demographic groups for their struggles, making them reticent to seek help. It is important to raise awareness about this phenomenon so that these barriers to treatment can be removed.
Why Should Pregnant Women Avoid Substance Use?
Most people know that a pregnant woman’s overall health directly affects the fetus. Whether it is tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, or other drugs, these substances can have negative effects on pregnant women’s physical and mental health. Because substance use is often related to poor nutritional intake and mental health issues, pregnant women with substance use disorders may become malnourished or mentally disoriented. Lack of self-care on these women’s part can impact their pregnancy.
More concerningly, these substances may pass from the mother to the fetus through the placenta. This increases the chance of birth defects, premature or underweight babies, and stillbirths. Exposure to substances such as marijuana through a baby’s mother may lead to behavioral problems in early childhood.
Lastly, the use of certain drugs like prescription pain relievers, heroin, and opioids may lead to a condition known as “neonatal abstinence syndrome” (NAS). Babies with NAS may go through withdrawal upon birth. These symptoms can develop from immediately after birth up to 14 days after birth. They may include skin coloring, diarrhea, abnormal sucking reflex, hyperactive reflexes, seizures, and slow weight gain.
Substance use and abuse during pregnancy can be incredibly destructive to both the baby and its mother. To avoid complications with pregnancy, birth, or the life of the mother and child, pregnant women should stop or avoid substance use while pregnant.
Which Substances Have the Most Serious Consequences?
Although any substance is harmful to pregnant women and their unborn children, there are a few particularly damaging drugs, including cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and other illicit drugs. For example, cocaine use increases the risk of miscarriage. Cocaine-exposed babies have a high risk of birth defects that impact the heart and the brain. Marijuana-exposed babies have a higher risk of premature births or low birth weight.
Pregnant women who smoke are also at risk of developing placental problems. Nicotine or other carcinogenic chemicals may also cause heart defects in newborn babies. Drinking during pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, which impacts the baby’s central nervous systems and can develop into learning disabilities and physical disabilities.
Is There a “Safe” Limit on Caffeine Consumption and Prescription Drugs During Pregnancy?
Although no amount of any drug or alcohol is considered “safe” during pregnancy, many people are not sure if caffeine needs to be considered a risky drug for pregnant women. Medical experts find that even moderate daily caffeine intake during pregnancy may lead to weight and health issues in babies. This is important to note because caffeine is a legal substance and is prevalent in chocolate, coffee, and sodas. Pregnant women should regulate or avoid the intake of caffeine, even though it is not an illicit drug.
The same applies to prescription drugs. Some prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications may have negative effects on pregnant women that are not well-researched or widely known about. Women who have prescriptions for drugs to manage conditions such as asthma, epilepsy, hypertension, or depression should consult their primary health providers about the drugs’ safety during pregnancy and potential alternatives.
Are Natural Supplements Safe?
Some people consider natural dietary supplements such as herbs, amino acids, minerals, and mega-vitamins safe or beneficial for pregnant women. This doesn’t mean anything considered “natural” is considered “safe.” One should consult their health provider before taking any natural supplements. Some over-the-counter vitamins may have doses that are too high for pregnant women.
Pregnant women are recommended to follow a healthy diet rich in proteins and leafy greens. These are always the best sources of nutrients. Most doctors recommend prenatal vitamins. Good sleep patterns, clean water, and regular exercise are also key to overall health.
Can Pregnant Women Enter Treatment?
Many treatment centers can help pregnant women and ensure privacy and confidentiality. Pregnancy does not discount someone from being eligible to receive life-saving addiction treatment; in fact, it is all the more important for these women and the future health and safety of their babies. Pregnant women going through recovery need substantial time to learn relapse prevention as well as how to care for the newborn baby while recovering. It is never too late to get help to overcome substance abuse, even during pregnancy.
Did you know that pregnant women who have an addiction may suffer from harmful health effects both to themselves and their babies? Women need specialized care when it comes to addiction recovery. There are therapies and counseling techniques to guide pregnant women through the difficult and emotional terrain of recovery and motherhood. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists know how to walk alongside women. We embrace a holistic approach and offer gender-specific treatment so that pregnant women can get the help they need to recover from addiction. Our residential facility offers a range of treatments including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, 12-Step programs, and custom treatment plans. We also work with other healthcare providers in the area to collaboratively support our clients. Early intervention is key. Call us at (866) 906-3203. Hope for you or your loved one is around the corner.