It can be difficult for those who have never experienced addiction to understand how pregnant women can stay addicted to alcohol or drugs.
Yet what those people do not realize is that, just as pregnancy can’t stop a major disease like cancer, it is also not capable of stopping an addicted woman from using.
Substance use disorder represents a neurological disease, and so uncontrollable urges tend to be present regardless of the potential consequences or incentives to go sober.
According to the National Institute on Drug Addiction, in 1992 just over 5% of pregnant women were using drugs — that’s around 250,000 women. To make matters worse, the study was based on self-reported data, which means addiction was likely underreported.
Nevertheless, it confirms that there are several hundred thousand women out there who are likely in serious need of rehab for pregnant women like New Directions for Women offers.
Women who use during pregnancy are not just putting their child’s and their own health at serious risk, though the health concerns are among the most dramatic. They are as a category at much greater risk of finding themselves in violent, unhealthy, or dangerous situations, including rape, robbery, and murder.
The effects of an addiction during pregnancy can be broken down into two categories, the effects of drug use on the mother, and the effects of drug use on the unborn child.
For the mother, the largest risks and effects of addiction during pregnancy include:
1. HIV / AIDS
3. Preterm labor
4. Premature labor
5. Heart and blood infections
9. Skin infections
10. Low self esteem and low weight gain
Even after pregnancy, addiction can be a serious problem to the mother. Simple tasks like diapering and feeding can be difficult to an addict. The drug use may change the mother’s breast milk formulation, which may be unhealthy to the baby. Plus, having a newborn baby can be extremely difficult to cope with for someone with a chemical dependency — the substance affects the mother’s behavior, making it hard to make good decisions, bond with her new child, or even hold on to her current job.
Nevertheless the risks for the child are even greater. For example:
1. Addiction at birth. Drugs can pass directly through the placenta to the baby, producing a poisonous effect, and the baby may be born with a chemical dependency.
2. HIV / AIDS, transmitted from the mother.
3. Birth defects
4. Retarded growth
5. Learning disabilities
6. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
7. High risk of infection
8. Abnormalities in their physical appearance
9. Early delivery or miscarriage
10. Heart problems
Especially in the first three months of pregnancy, drug or alcohol use can produce medically irreversible damage. This is why New Directions for Women offers a comprehensive program of rehab for pregnant women.
We have both the medical facilities and the ability to deal with the concerns of addiction and pregnancy, enabling us to minimize the long-term damage to the mother, her child, and the whole family. We can diagnose as well as care for the issues produced by fetal drug and alcohol exposure, and we are committed to helping the whole family (both born as well as unborn) heal from the effects of chemical dependency.