Addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic, relapsing neurological disorder. The Mayo…
One of the most difficult aspects of pregnancy is that every single one of the mother’s actions can significantly influence the fetus’s growth, development, and health. It is important to note that everything consumed and absorbed by a pregnant woman transfers to the fetus. This is not limited to medications, but also to food items, seemingly harmless supplements, and some topical lotions/ creams/ oils. There are long lists of dos and don’ts that address nearly every aspect of a woman’s life, when it comes to pregnancy. Obviously engaging in substance abuse while pregnant would fall under the don’ts category. Much like the DEA (United States Drug Enforcement Administration) created controlled substance schedules, which categorize the various dangers of controlled substances, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) compiled a list of safe medications for use during pregnancy.
Addiction and Pregnancy
Addiction is defined as a mental disorder that is characterized by an individual habitually engaging in rewarding stimuli regardless of the consequences. As such, it is not uncommon for an individual that struggles with substance abuse and/ or addiction to make sexually promiscuous choices, and for women this can lead to pregnancy. A woman struggling with addiction will prioritize satisfying her drug cravings above all else, which will not instantaneously change due to finding out she is pregnant. Alternatively, it is possible for a woman to be unaware of her pregnancy for a period of time, and carry on as though she is not pregnant. The physical and emotional damage that can occur as a result of continue substance abuse while pregnant can be severe (for both fetus and mother) and in some cases if left untreated, can be life threatening. In order to assure the safety of both mother and fetus, obtaining medical and professional help for treating substance abuse and/ or addiction is of utmost importance.
Effects of Substance Abuse
There are a variety of side effects that can develop as a result of substance abuse and/ or addiction. The list of potential long and short-term side effects grows exponentially when you add pregnancy into the mix, as the effects of one’s substance abuse do not solely affect the user, but also her unborn baby. The National Institute on Drug Abuse provide the following examples:
- Placental abruption
- Low birth weight
- Premature labor
- Birth defects/ deformities of the face
- SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
- Small head circumference
- Neurological defects
- Increased risk for developing postpartum depression
Continuing to abuse drugs and/ or alcohol while pregnant poses many potential risks not only to the mother, but also to the unborn fetus. Attending treatment while pregnant can reduce the risk of serious birth defects and the development of possibly avoidable pregnancy complications.
Medical Assistance and Treatment
Every day and week a fetus grows in gestation significant growth and physical developments occur. Depending on the woman, pregnancy can be a dangerous and complicated medical condition. There are many factors that contribute to a woman’s ability or inability to successfully conceive, carry, and deliver a baby. While there are natural complications that can arise during pregnancy, the longer a pregnant woman abuses drugs and/ or alcohol, the more she increases her and her fetus’s risk for developing complications. There are many treatment options available for a pregnant woman struggling with substance abuse. It will likely behoove a pregnant woman to attend a substance abuse treatment program that offers medical supervision, so as to assure the progression of her pregnancy is on track as well as address any medical needs that may develop throughout the duration of the treatment program. Regardless of how far along a woman is in her pregnancy, the second she obtains medical help to stop using drugs and/ or alcohol while pregnant, the safer she and her baby’s wellbeing will be.
Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous.
If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction.
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