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Empowering Mothers: Pregnancy and Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorder (SUD) during pregnancy can cause significant risks not only to the mother but also to the developing fetus. Many women do not know the harms of substance use during pregnancy or are not sure how to get help. About 5% of pregnant women have used substances during their pregnancy, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

Addressing SUD in pregnancy demands empathy and specialized care. There are many things treatment providers will consider during treatment, from the dangers of continued substance use to the difficulties in achieving sobriety. They’ll help addicted women make decisions that are best for their sober future.

Understanding Substance Use Disorder in Pregnancy

Substance use disorder, aka addiction, is a chronic, relapsing condition characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences. When this occurs during pregnancy, it introduces unique challenges due to the potential harm it can inflict on both the mother and the developing fetus.

The use of substances such as alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and prescription medications during pregnancy can have devastating effects on fetal development. These substances can cross the placental barrier, exposing the fetus to harmful toxins and interfering with crucial stages of growth and development.

For example, alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), which encompass a range of physical, cognitive, and behavioral impairments.

Similarly, smoking tobacco during pregnancy increases the risk of complications such as preterm birth, low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine can also have profound effects, including congenital disabilities, developmental delays, and neonatal withdrawal syndrome.

Challenges in Achieving Sobriety During Pregnancy

Overcoming substance use disorder during pregnancy is particularly challenging due to a myriad of factors. Pregnant women may face stigma, limited access to healthcare, and fear of legal repercussions, all of which can deter them from seeking help.

The physiological changes and hormonal fluctuations that accompany pregnancy can exacerbate cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making it even more difficult to maintain sobriety.

Many people with substance use issues also have co-occurring disorders such as mental health challenges. Women, in particular, with SUD tend to have co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which further complicates treatment efforts.

Addressing these underlying issues is essential for successful recovery but requires comprehensive, integrated care.

Impact on the Unborn Child

The consequences of substance use during pregnancy can be profound and long-lasting. For both the mother and the child, there can be complications.

For the fetus, exposure to drugs and alcohol in utero can lead to a range of adverse outcomes, including:

  1. Physical abnormalities: Certain substances, such as opioids and methamphetamine, can cause structural malformations and congenital anomalies in the developing fetus.
  2. Neurodevelopmental delays: Alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs can disrupt brain development, leading to cognitive impairments, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems.
  3. Behavioral and emotional issues: Children exposed to substances in utero may be at increased risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorders, and difficulties regulating emotions.

Substance use during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, congenital disabilities, developmental delays, and other complications for the baby.

There is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy. Drinking alcohol can lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), which can cause lifelong physical, behavioral, and cognitive problems for the child.

These effects can have lifelong implications for the child, impacting their academic achievement, social relationships, and overall quality of life.

Getting Clean as and Sober as a New Parent

Despite the challenges, many pregnant women or their partners may find the motivation to seek treatment and embark on the journey to sobriety for the well-being of their children. For single mothers, getting sober may require specialized support and resources.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT), therapy, support groups, and work in therapy can all help pregnant women achieve and maintain sobriety. Most people will need a support network in 12-step recovery to help them stay sober long-term.

Long-Term Support Is Crucial For New Mothers in Recovery

Once a woman has had a child, postpartum support is critical to prevent relapse and promote healthy bonding between the family. Peer support groups, parenting classes, and mental health counseling can provide the necessary tools and guidance for navigating the challenges of early motherhood while maintaining sobriety.

Substance use disorder in pregnancy presents complex challenges with profound implications for both the mother and the unborn child.

Understanding the risks and consequences of continued substance use, as well as the barriers to achieving sobriety, is essential to help pregnant women struggling with addiction. Women who know about harm and have access to prenatal resources will have better outcomes.

When it comes to pregnancy, the safest approach is to avoid all substances, including alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs, and certain medications that a healthcare professional does not prescribe.

Getting Help for Substance Use Disorder

Struggling with substance abuse can feel like being trapped in a cycle with no way out, but at Present Moments Recovery, we're here to help you break free.

Our holistic approach to recovery recognizes that healing involves more than just addressing the physical aspects of addiction; it's about nurturing your mind, body, and spirit.

Call us at 619-363-4767 to take the first step toward reclaiming your life. Together, we'll embark on a transformative journey, empowering you to embrace the present moment and build a brighter, substance-free future.



Read Full Bio
Mark G
Mark Gladden brings both personal and professional experience to his role as co-founder of Present Moments Recovery. Now in long-term recovery himself after struggling with addiction for years, Mark understands firsthand the challenges men face in achieving and maintaining sobriety. It was this insight, combined with a desire to help others, that led Mark to establish Present Moments Recovery.

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