Pregnancy is a sensitive time for most women, requiring additional care and education even under the best of circumstances. Women who are using or misusing substances during pregnancy have special needs and health considerations.
Pregnant women can’t go to just any drug rehab program. They need an addiction treatment program that is equipped to deal with the more complex situation of withdrawal during pregnancy, that can allow for prenatal care, and that can provide support for the various issues related to recovery during pregnancy.
The Stigma Against Pregnant Women Struggling With Substance Abuse
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A 2013 paper published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal states that pregnant women often face stigma when they try to seek help for substance use and abuse. This attitude is an obstacle to treatment, whether or not the substances used are legal or illicit.
Feeling judged in emergency rooms or at clinics can make it more difficult for women to seek the right care. On May 2015, The Atlantic published an article revealing that many states across the country resort to arresting women who plead guilty to using illicit substances while pregnant.
The attitude around this is slowly changing as data show that opioid use is of concern in the general population as a whole, and addiction is viewed as a disease rather than an active choice. More drug rehab centers and public programs are reaching out to pregnant women, giving them the specialized help they need to get well.
The best drug rehab centers for pregnant women do not judge the women for their substance abuse. They understand that addiction is not a matter of willpower, and many of these women want to do what is best for their babies. They just need help.
ARE YOU STRUGGLING WITH ADDICTION AND SEEKING HELP? GET IN TOUCH WITH ONE OF OUR TREATMENT SPECIALISTS NOW.
ARE YOU STRUGGLING WITH ADDICTION AND SEEKING HELP? GET IN TOUCH WITH ONE OF OUR TREATMENT SPECIALISTS NOW.
The Risks of Substance Use During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, a baby ingests whatever the mother does. If you drink, smoke, or use another substance, so does your baby.
MedlinePlus states that there are different risks to you and your baby depending on what substance you use.
Misusing prescription medication is dangerous, especially if you are using opioids. Opioid pain medications are linked to neonatal withdrawal in your baby and malformations. They also put you at risk of miscarriage.
Known for being unsafe regardless of the levels you take, drinking alcohol puts your child at risk of developing fetal alcohol syndrome disorders (FASD). FASD can later cause behavioral, cognitive, and physical problems in your child.
Smoking is known to pass toxic chemicals to your baby, as well as carbon monoxide and nicotine. It is linked to birth defects, premature birth, and underweight babies. Tobacco is also harmful after your child is born and can cause them to become obese or have asthma. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is also linked to smoking.
These can all pose risks, but methamphetamine and cocaine cause significant damage. They are linked to neonatal withdrawal, underweight babies, and birth defects.
Babies born to women who misuse drugs can also suffer from withdrawal symptoms, especially if the abused drug is an opioid. Some symptoms include:
- Difficulty feeding
- Breathing difficulties
- Seizures or tremors
- Lower than average weight
Statistics on Pregnancy and Drug Misuse
Per a 2016 case study, pregnant women reported the following use of substances:
- Smoking cigarettes: 15.9 percent
- Using illicit drugs: 5.9 percent
- Drinking alcohol: 8.5 percent
Some studies show that up to 50 percent of women who take a substance while pregnant tend to use more than one substance (polysubstance abuse).
Between 2000 and 2009, the use of opioids by pregnant women increased fivefold in the United States.
Of women who used substances, only the following were able to successfully quit during pregnancy:
- 32 percent of tobacco smokers
- 96 percent of alcohol drinkers
- 78 percent who smoked marijuana
- 73 percent who reported using cocaine
The study also showed that relapse rates among women who quit using drugs during pregnancy were between 27 percent and 58 percent, depending on the substance.
Is MAT Possible for Pregnant Women?
Drug rehab centers for pregnant women will be able to devise a treatment plan that best suits the individual’s needs. This may include a combination of medication and therapy.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an option for pregnant women in some circumstances. For opioid use disorders, it is possible to use the following medications to help you abstain from opioid abuse or to control withdrawal symptoms:
The National Institute on Drug Abuse mentions that this medication is newer, and its effects on pregnant women need to be further studied. More data is needed, but babies of women who were treated with naltrexone tended to have a shorter duration of withdrawal symptoms after birth.
This medication can reduce cravings for opioids, and NIDA found that it is a suitable treatment for women during pregnancy. It is a partial opioid that is known to cause less stress to the mother and fetus. It can work well for women when used under the right supervision.
Per a 2012 study from The Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, methadone is often considered the most suitable treatment for opioid users, but parameters for safe amounts for pregnant women have not been established. Methadone is known to prevent cravings for up to 24 hours and is slowly released into the blood. Hormonal changes may require modifications in dosage.
Use of any of these medications must be carefully monitored by a doctor. No pregnant woman should attempt to dose any of these herself. Taking too much could lead to miscarriage or other harm to the mother and fetus.
All these medications come with potential risks when used during pregnancy. The supervising doctor determines that the benefits of keeping the pregnant woman on the medication outweigh the risks.
Considerations for Pregnant Women
Though treating pregnant women for addiction is more complicated, full recovery is absolutely possible. Per NIDA, there are several ways to help pregnant women who seek treatment.
- Combine prenatal care with therapy, if necessary.
- Monitor women as best as possible and offer the necessary treatment.
- Provide care after giving birth. With the stress of new motherhood and the hormonal fluctuations of the postpartum period, this can be a vulnerable time in recovery.
- Treat any co-occurring disorders and unaddressed mental health issues.
The Child Welfare Information Gateway advises that women should be aware of programs that allow them to live with their children while they obtain treatment. Such programs are known to have a higher rate of success and help mothers become better parents.
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Resources for Pregnant Women Struggling With Addiction
- Pregnancy and Substance Abuse:This database from MedlinePlus contains basic information about substance use and its effects, categorized according to drug type.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: HHS provides information about how to get Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), your rights as a parent, and other resources you may need during your pregnancy, such as health insurance information, guidelines around poverty levels, and programs like Head Start if you have other children.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline: Women who misuse substances may also be at risk of exposure to domestic violence.
- SAMHSA’s National Helpline: This helpline is staffed 24 hours a day and operates all year. It is free and confidential. You can use it to get help for yourself or a family member who is abusing substances or requires help for a mental health issue. You can request information and obtain referrals to support groups, treatment centers, and local organizations that can help you.
- SAMHSA Services Locator: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can help you find a variety of treatment services using online tools. There are directories for people who want to quit using opioids, find methadone or buprenorphine clinics, and locate treatment facilities that offer comprehensive treatment.
You may also be able to find help through state directories.
Call (609) 473-6720 anytime, day or evening, for a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable addiction recovery specialists. We can help you find the right treatment option. You can also contact us online for more information.
(January 2018) Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-second-edition/frequently-asked-questions/what-are-unique-needs-pregnant-women
(May 2015) In the Body of Another. The Atlantic. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/05/into-the-body-of-another/392522/
(January 2017) Pregnancy & Substance Abuse. MedlinePlus. Retrieved March 2019 from https://medlineplus.gov/pregnancyandsubstanceabuse.html
(March 2019) Substance Use During Pregnancy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/substance-abuse/substance-abuse-during-pregnancy.htm
(December 2013) Stigma a major barrier to treatment for pregnant women with addictions. Canadian Medical Association Journal. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3855110/
(May 2016) Substance use during pregnancy. F1000 Research. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4870985/
(December 2018) Pregnancy and Opioids. MedlinePlus. Retrieved March 2019 from https://medlineplus.gov/pregnancyandopioids.html
(February 2018) Could Naltrexone Be Used to Treat Pregnant Women with Opioid Addiction? National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2018/02/could-naltrexone-be-used-to-treat-pregnant-women-opioid-addiction
(July 2012) Buprenorphine During Pregnancy Reduces Neonate Distress. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved March 2019 from https://archives.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2012/07/buprenorphine-during-pregnancy-reduces-neonate-distress
(October 2012) Dosing and Monitoring of Methadone in Pregnancy: Literature Review. The Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3477836/
Substance Use Treatment for Pregnant and Parenting Women. Child Welfare Information Gateway. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/bhw/treatment/women/