Being pregnant can be an unbelievable time in one’s life. Every woman’s pregnancy experience will be unique.
For some, pregnancy can feel overwhelming, exciting, nerve-wracking, great, horrible, exhausting, energizing all at the same time. Regardless of the unique combination of emotions each pregnant mother may experience, every pregnant person’s body goes through similar changes.
One’s hormones adjust significantly, one’s internal organs shift to make space for the baby, women even increase their blood production and supply by a major amount. The number of physical changes, and mental and emotional shifts a woman endures throughout her pregnancy is incredible. It has been stated that it takes a minimum of a full year postpartum for a woman to fully recover from the pregnancy and birthing experience.
Some women who suffer from chronic diseases, when pregnant can experience less symptoms of her disease, and in some cases, all of the symptoms will subside during pregnancy.
This, however, is not the case with addiction. If a woman is struggling with addiction prior to becoming pregnant, she will continue to struggle throughout her pregnancy unless she seeks treatment. This can pose an incredible dangerous risk to both the pregnant woman and fetus. Even with all of the wonders that occur throughout one’s pregnancy, addiction does not simply go on hold because you are growing another human. In fact, addiction and the effects of most abused substances almost immediately transfers to the fetus.
One frightening statistic, regarding women who use and/or abuse substances (including tobacco) while pregnant is that the risk of stillbirth is two to three times higher than woman who remain sober and do not use any kind of substances throughout her pregnancy. Research indicates that, in 2013, merely 5 years ago, there were 27,000 infants born in the United States that were born dependent upon drugs. It has more recently been stated, that every twenty-five minutes in America, a baby is born that exhibits withdrawal symptoms.
There is a hierarchy of prescribed medications that are allowed to be used by a pregnant woman. They range in type from category A to category D.
Category A are medications that are the safest to take while pregnant. Category B are medications that have displayed no risk in humans. Category C are medications that have not been adequately researched, and category D are medications that are not safe for pregnant women to take as they have shown adverse reactions. In pregnancy taking any type of drug can pose some risks, even if they are prescribed by a medical professional.
Regardless of the circumstances, there will be times throughout one’s pregnancy that are challenging. With the growing rates of infants born having to experience substance abuse withdrawal symptoms in the US, there must be a change. Not only for the aforementioned babies, but because the risks that addiction poses to both the pregnant mother and growing fetus throughout the entire experience is massive. The list of possible risks includes, but are not limited to, the following: miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, placenta abruption, premature birth, and small head circumference. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is a group of disorders that can happen if the mother abuses alcohol during her pregnancy. Any of the FASDs can happen with the intake of alcohol, because the moment the mother consumes alcohol, it passes through the umbilical cord, straight to the fetus. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is another possible risk. This happens if a mother is abusing opioids. The infant will be born reliant upon the drugs and when he or she does not get them will experience withdrawal symptoms (diarrhea, sweating, vomiting, seizure, fever, shaking, skin discoloration, rapid breathing, low birthweight…etc.). Though Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), does not have an explainable cause of death (hence the name), infants who experienced substance abuse or drug intake during gestation have a higher risk of dying from SIDS.
If one finds herself in a situation where she is struggling with addiction and is pregnant, seek treatment immediately.
The long and short term effects that one can experience for both mother and baby are too severe to risk. Even if a woman finds herself far along into her pregnancy and is struggling with substance abuse, it is best to seek treatment as soon as possible. It is never too late to make healthy choices and shift unhealthy patterns. Most women that are pregnant go to prenatal doctor’s visits. These can be a great place to seek support, alternatively one should feel free to seek support from a local hospital or clinic.