Pregnancy & Addiction: What You Should Know

The Dangers of Drug Use During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a life-changing time. Maybe you’ve tried for months, or even longer, to get pregnant. Maybe discovering your pregnancy was a wonderful surprise. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s normal to experience a whirlwind of emotions during this time. You’re likely excited about meeting your baby and if it’s your first pregnancy, becoming a mom. But it’s normal to be anxious, too, about the upcoming responsibilities you’ll face and about your own health, as well as your baby’s. You may be worried about how your body will change in the coming months, and how your new role will impact you and the ones you love.

Remember that when you take care of your physical and emotional health, your baby benefits, too. That means eating a nutritious diet, getting plenty of rest, seeing your doctor regularly and avoiding substances that may harm your baby’s health, like alcohol, nicotine, marijuana and other drugs. Yet some women struggle with addiction and may find it hard to hard to stop using substances, even while pregnant. Here’s a closer look at this issue, how these substances may affect your baby, and how to get help if you’re unable to stop on your own.

Drugs Affect You and Your Baby

Using drugs while you are pregnant can affect not only you, but your baby as well. When you drink alcohol, smoke or use a drug like crystal meth or crack cocaine, your fetus experiences the effect of those drugs along with you. Different drugs have different impacts, but in general, taking drugs, drinking or smoking increases the risk that your baby may have a birth defect, be born premature or underweight, or even be stillborn. Exposure to drugs can also affect your baby’s health after he or she is born. Your child may have behavior problems, problems with memory and attentiveness, and other developmental issues.

For example, if you smoke while pregnant, your baby is at higher risk of having a low birth weight, slowed fetal growth, preterm birth and stillbirth. After your baby is born, he or she is at higher risk of respiratory problems, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and infant mortality. Drinking while pregnant can cause a number of issues including fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders which include cognitive and behavioral problems and low birth weight. Using other drugs can cause withdrawal symptoms in newborn babies, including a condition called neonatal abstinence syndrome. Newborns with it are higher risk of having low birth weight, respiratory problems, issues with feeding and gaining weight normally, seizures and even death.

It’s important to note that it’s not only illegal drugs that can affect your baby. Over-the-counter medications and prescription medicines can also cause harm, so talk to your doctor before you take any medicine, even if it’s sold in stores or been prescribed to you.

Dealing with Addiction? How to Get Help

While nearly all women are aware of the dangers of consuming drugs and alcohol during pregnancy, the fact is that some women do use alcohol and drugs while they are pregnant. Dealing with the heightened emotions of this time may be a trigger. Recent stats show that about 5.4 percent of women use alcohol during their first trimester, while 4.8 use it during their second trimester, and 2.4 in their final trimester. Researchers have found similar usages with other substances, including tobacco and marijuana.

If you are struggling with addiction and are pregnant, it’s important to realize that it’s not too late to get help. Admitting that you have a problem is the first step. After you do so, talk to a trusted loved one who can help, or speak with your healthcare provider. He or she can help you determine what resources are available to you to help you.

In the meantime, get rid of any substances that you might be tempted by, and consider the people in your life who may encourage you to use drugs or alcohol. In some cases, you may need to avoid people who may not support your goal of having the healthiest pregnancy possible. Support groups, whether online or in-person, and one-on-one counseling may help you. The most important thing to do is to recognize that if you have a problem, you can take steps to manage it so that you not only have a healthier body during pregnancy but help have a healthy baby as well. The attached resource, Pregnancy & Addiction: What You Should Know, describes more about this issue and how you can get help if you need it.

Author bio: Tammy Cate is the founder and CEO of Transformations By The Gulf, a leading drug rehab facility. Cate is passionate about helping others lead a sober and fulfilling life. She maintains a hands-on rapport with staff and residents to ensure everyone is able to receive an individualized experience.