The Risks of Pregnancy and Addiction: How to Treat Mom and Baby

pregnancy and addiction

Written By: Molly Groo

Molly is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Case Manager and Vocational Services. She has a Bachelor’s in International Relations, is a Certified Addiction Counselor, and it’s currently working towards her Master’s in Social Work. Molly’s experience allows her to provide expert knowledge about solution-based methods to help people in recovery maintain long-term sobriety.

How Many Women Experience Pregnancy and Addiction?

pregnancy and addiction

Unfortunately, pregnancy and addiction go hand in hand for many women. In fact, as a result of the opiate epidemic, rates of NAS, or neonatal abstinence syndrome, have increased. This disorder occurs when pregnant women use opiates or other drugs.

NAS causes infants to experience symptoms of addiction and withdrawal. In the United States, a baby is diagnosed with NAS every fifteen minutes. But the risks of pregnancy and addiction aren’t limited to just opiates and the impacts of babies born addicted. Using drugs or alcohol during pregnancy can have long-term consequences for mothers, babies, and society.

Risks of Addiction and Pregnancy

NAS occurs when babies are born addicted to opiates or other narcotics. Treatment often involves long stays in the NICU. It can also require years of therapy. Symptoms of NAS include tremors, crying, sleep problems, dehydration, and even seizures. Women using any drug, including alcohol, while pregnant can be fatal to the baby. It can also cause lifelong problems. Some of the impacts include:

Some of the impacts include:

  • Premature birth
  • Greater risk of stillbirth
  • Congenital disabilities
  • Low birth weight
  • Increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS

Different substances carry different risks. For example, research shows that using cocaine while pregnant can result in long-term behavioral problems for the child, as well as dangerously high blood pressure for the mother. Thus, drinking while pregnant can cause miscarriage or fetal alcohol syndrome. Treating addiction in pregnant women and mothers is essential for long-term health for individuals and communities

Challenges in Pregnancy and Addiction

The impacts of pregnancy and addiction are devastating for babies and mothers. One example of this is the complications of treating opiate addiction in pregnant women. Sadly, the withdrawal symptoms from quitting opiates can cause miscarriage. As a result, pregnant women who want to recover have to take methadone or suboxone. These substances can also be addictive, making it difficult for the mother to switch to abstinence after giving birth.

They can also cause the baby to become dependent and experience withdrawal. A baby born with NAS may begin to exhibit withdrawal symptoms within the first 3 days to life and the symptoms cam last upwards of 2 weeks.

In addition to the physical impacts, the emotional and mental trauma of pregnancy and addiction can be severe. Babies treated for NAS, are removed from the mother. In many cases, social services then get involved, which further complicates the problem.

Mothers who have their babies removed often experience long-term grief, depression, anxiety, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Babies also experience adverse effects. Early contact with the mother is what helps babies’ brains develop, and when removed from their mother at birth, many babies suffer developmental issues. The issue of pregnancy and addiction also affect society as a whole. The cost of treating NAS costs over 300 million dollars per year. Of course, helping babies born addicted is worth it- however financial resources aimed at preventions would go much further.

What’s the Solution?

To fight the impact of pregnancy and addiction, we need prevention, education, and treatment. Being aware of the risks of drug use during pregnancy is essential for mothers, especially because of the potential effects it could have on the baby. Also important is the ability to get care if they need it. For women who have recently become mothers, it’s vital to have quality care. Treatment for addiction can offer women a new start. During treatment, mothers have an opportunity to process trauma, learn practical parenting skills, and learn to live sober. Drug rehab is often the first step towards being able to be a sober, healthy parent.

If you are ready to seek help for addiction in a non-judgmental, supportive environment, please call today.

Written By: Molly Groo

Molly is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Case Manager and Vocational Services. She has a Bachelor’s in International Relations, is a Certified Addiction Counselor, and it’s currently working towards her Master’s in Social Work. Molly’s experience allows her to provide expert knowledge about solution-based methods to help people in recovery maintain long-term sobriety.
Cite This Article
Molly Groo. "The Risks of Pregnancy and Addiction: How to Treat Mom and Baby." Lighthouse Recovery Institute., Published on Apr 24, 2020, https://lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com/the-risks-of-pregnancy-and-addiction/.

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