Though the dangers of chemical dependency and pregnancy are well known, the problems caused by this deadly combination are still all too common. At New Directions for Women, our female- and family-focused approach drives us to be particularly concerned about addiction and pregnancy. Rehab for pregnant women is not just about getting one’s life back on track, it’s also about saving another life.
Alcohol and Pregnancy
It’s well known in the medical community that when pregnant women with addiction consume alcohol, the booze goes through the placenta and straight through into the bloodstream of the baby. This can be devastating especially in the first three months of a pregnancy, when alcohol affects the natural development of both the body and the brain. To make matters worse, not only are there clear short-term consequences, but there are more consequences down the line — these children often go on to become alcoholics themselves.
Just what is affected by consuming alcohol during a pregnancy? Here is a partial list:
- The way the child develops in the womb
- The child’s health
- The mother’s health
- The child’s learning ability
- The child’s susceptibility to illness later in adult life
Drinking alcohol while pregnant is known to cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, increase the chances of a miscarriage, trigger malformations in the child’s heart and other organs as they develop, cause stillbirth, and more.
Once damage has been caused in the pregnancy, it’s effectively irreversible. In fact, even drinking prior to a pregnancy can be harmful to the child’s development — it’s best to go sober beforehand.
For women who are considering having a child, they should strongly consider putting an end to their alcohol use immediately. Men, too, are known to have lower sperm counts if they drink heavily, so planning for a child can be a chance for both husband and wife to support each other in “going dry.”
Drugs and Pregnancy
According to the American Medical Association, the number of newborns with “neonatal abstinence syndrome” went up more than 300% from 2000 to 2010. What is neonatal abstinence syndrome? This is a condition where the baby is born addicted to drugs, because the mother used drugs during the pregnancy and they passed on to the fetus in the womb.
Like alcohol, drugs damage a baby’s development and can cause complications in pregnancy. Different substances may cause anemia, nutritional deficiencies, and retard fetal growth. Marijuana use during a pregnancy, for example, may result in impaired decision making skills, memory issues, and attention deficit disorder in the child — though these symptoms may not appear until the child has reached age 3.
Amphetamine use in pregnancy has been linked to higher rates of cardiovascular defects in the baby. Barbiturates can cause withdrawals, birth defects, seizures, and poor feedings. Opioids are known to be associated with complications and abnormalities.
Cocaine increases the chance of miscarriage, and babies born to mothers who used cocaine in pregnancy tend to have mental deficiencies and reduced IQ scores. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is also more common in babies born to cocaine-using mothers. PCP use during a pregnancy is thought to trigger abnormal development.
The list goes on and on. The bottom line is substance abuse and pregnancy should never mix; for this reason, we see rehab for pregnant women as a top priority.