5 Reasons to Stop Using Drugs While Pregnant

When you are pregnant, it is important that you watch what you put into your body. Consumption of illegal drugs is dangerous for both the mother and the unborn baby, as these substances can cause miscarriage, low birth weight, premature labor, placental disruption fetal death and even maternal death. These dangers exist, because everything a pregnant woman eats, drinks or takes affects her unborn child. Babies who are born to mothers who abuse drugs often face health problems in utero and, sadly, throughout their lives. It is difficult to get sober while you are going through major transitions into motherhood, but it is possible to get and stay clean if you know good reasons to stay motivated.

Understand the Health Risks

When you are pregnant, you are not just “eating for two,” but also breathing and drinking for two. Every time you smoke, use alcohol or take illegal drugs, your unborn baby does, too. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), consequences of abusing popular drugs are varied. For instance, cigarettes pass nicotine and carcinogens to unborn babies; they also deprive babies of nourishment while they raise the risk of stillbirth or premature birth.

Furthermore, alcohol is similarly risky. Many people are surprised to learn that there is no safe amount of alcohol that women can drink while pregnant. Fetal exposure to alcohol can cause life-long physical and behavioral problems, such as fetal alcohol syndrome. Characteristics of this condition include the following issues:

  • Growth retardation
  • Small eyes with drooping upper lids
  • Short, upturned noses
  • Flattened cheeks
  • Small jaws
  • Thin upper lips
  • Flattened philtrum (the groove in the middle of the upper lip)
  • Central nervous system problems

Pregnant women who abuse illegal drugs put their unborn children in even greater peril. The harm caused by excessive drug abuse often harms babies for life. The following drugs cause many health problems for babies:

  • Marijuana crosses the placenta to babies in utero. Like cigarette smoke, this drug contains toxins that keep your baby from getting the proper supply of oxygen that she needs to grow.
  • Cocaine crosses the placenta and enters your baby’s circulation, and the substance remains in the child for much longer than an adult. Defects of the genitals, kidneys and brain are all possible.
  • Heroin is a very addictive drug that affects babies in utero. Because this drug is so addictive, unborn babies can become dependent upon the drug. Withdrawal symptoms include irritability, convulsions, fever, diarrhea, sleep abnormalities and joint stiffness.
  • Both PCP and LSD users can behave violently, which may harm the baby if the mother hurts herself. PCP use during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight, poor muscle control, brain damage and withdrawal syndrome if the mother uses the drug frequently enough. Withdrawal symptoms include lethargy that alternates with tremors. LSD can lead to birth defects if used often.
  • Speed can cause the baby to get less oxygen, which can lead to low birth weight. Methamphetamine can also increase the likelihood of premature labor, miscarriage and placental abruption. Babies can be born addicted to methamphetamine and suffer withdrawal symptoms that include tremors, sleeplessness, muscle spasms and feeding difficulties.

The best thing a mother can do to protect her baby is to seek help immediately for drug abuse. The sooner you stop taking drugs and build a sober life, the better your unborn child’s chances are for a healthy future.

Know the Law

Currently, Tennessee is the only state in which a woman can be prosecuted for using illegal drugs while pregnant. Offenders of this law face a choice between serving time in jail or joining a rehab program. Many states have expanded their child-welfare requirements to include substance abuse during pregnancy as grounds for terminating parental rights in relation to child abuse and neglect.

Understand Your Mental Health Risks

According to the American Psychological Association, having a baby is a major stressor that can trigger substance abuse and mental health problems, especially among women who are vulnerable to addiction because of their genetic backgrounds or prior history of addiction. In fact, experts at the NIDA argue that intense and challenging circumstances raise the risk for substance abuse even among people who have abstained from drugs for prolonged periods of time.

Get Educated

Fortunately, most women who use drugs during pregnancy are not addicted. They may have become emotionally dependent upon a substance, but they do not have withdrawal symptoms when the drug is removed. Education is the most appropriate first step for intervention. Studies have consistently shown that many pregnant substance users would probably stop or at least cut down if they knew about the consequences of their actions.

Help Is Available to You

Pregnancy ushers in a season in which women often feel alone, almost as if they are holding up the entire earth. Although it is true that many mothers are the center of their new babies’ universes, support abounds for mothers who have addiction problems. No matter how severe your drug or drinking problem has become—or how far along you are in your pregnancy—it is never too late to reach out for help that could change the life of both yourself and your child.

Addiction Recovery for Pregnant Women

If you or someone you love struggles with alcohol abuse, then know that help is available. Admissions coordinators at our toll-free, 24 hour helpline can guide you to wellness. Do not go it alone when help is just one phone call away.

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