Today, it is not uncommon to see pregnant women struggling to overcome various forms of addiction. Most women will continue to use throughout their pregnancy due to the lack of resources and the fear of reaching out for help. In many cases, the fear of losing their child or getting Child Protective Services (CPS) involved often prevents pregnant women from seeking treatment.
Pregnant women who suffer from addiction also struggle with limited transportation, few financial resources, inadequate childcare and an overwhelming stigma. Admitting to a drug problem is difficult enough but when the addict is a mother, society tends to judge even more harshly. Even when pregnant women can overcome these obstacles, logistics are an issue. Spending time away from family and other children can be hard emotionally. For women without support and financial stability, it can seem impossible.
The first part of the addiction treatment process is usually detox. This process requires time away from loved ones in a medical facility. It’s a tough step to take, but it’s necessary for success. Withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and even fatal without proper treatment. When the addict is a pregnant woman, that medical care becomes even more vital, as detox symptoms can affect fetuses in the womb. In some tragic cases, untreated withdrawal can be fatal for the mother and the baby. This is part of the reason it’s so vital that pregnant women who suffer from addiction reach out for help. Some may try to do it on their own to avoid the shame or stigma, but this is a dangerous decision. Fortunately, in modern addiction treatment there are options for women seeking detox services even while pregnant.
After detox, intense therapy is recommended to help identify the root cause of the addiction and if any other forms of post-partum depression, eating disorders, mental health issues and depression symptoms are in play. For most women, the addiction started prior to the pregnancy. Allowing mothers, the time and space to address the underlying issues in a safe and supportive environment will enable the women to become better adapted to motherhood and dealing with conflicting or high-stress issues.
Being sober can be stressful, but being sober with a child can be even more stressful. It is important that in addition to treatment, women get involved in some supportive programs and build a female support system whom they can contact when they are experiencing difficulties. Treatment can be costly, but working a supportive program such as Alcoholics Anonymous, getting involved in their local church or other avenues for peer support is free.
According to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention study between 2013 and 2014, addiction and pregnancy often go hand in hand:
– 122,000 pregnant women use marijuana
– 96,000 pregnant women use cocaine
– 25,000 pregnant women use pain killers
– One out of every 10 pregnant women use alcohol
By not reaching out for help, the mother is not only putting her life in jeopardy but putting the child at high risk for possible birth defects, heart problems, respiratory problems, low birth weight, SIDS, seizures and stillbirth. It is crucial that any woman struggling with addiction reach out for addiction treatment and comply with medical recommendations. It may be challenging to undergo the recovery process, but for most, it would be devastating to lose a child due to withdrawal or their own resistance to treatment. Recovery is possible. It may be time-consuming, but recovery will allow the mother to be fully present in the child’s life and help provide stability for the family.
Breaking through denial and shame is the first step, but once a pregnant woman overcomes the stigma of seeking help, what about logistics? As mentioned, many women who can accept that they need help still struggle to find the financial support necessary to get it and lack a support system to care for their children during treatment.
Fortunately, there are options for mothers who need help with addiction. Most states offer insurance to pregnant women and mothers, which can help offset the cost of detox and treatment. Additionally, many states, including Florida, have non-profit treatment centers that specifically cater to the needs of pregnant women and mothers. In these facilities, financial assistance is usually an option and some services are provided free of charge to women who qualify. Many centers and recovery residences even allow women to live with their children on campus while they receive care, and some are licensed and insured to treat women at every stage of pregnancy. Further, 12-step programs can also offer great resources. They are free-of-charge and available in every state, allowing women with financial difficulty to access the support they need to get and stay sober. Faith-based programs also tend to offer free or low-cost treatment and support. The key is to reach out, remain diligent and research options.
For pregnant women, there are unique barriers to treatment, but this does not mean that recovery is impossible. In modern addiction treatment, there are many opportunities for mothers looking to better their lives and the lives of their children. The first step is getting over the hurdle and remembering that avoiding stigma is never as important as achieving freedom from substance dependence.