Women bear an incredible gift, to be able to carry children and give birth. What many may not realize, however, is that many women also bear the burden of addiction. Pregnant women are no exception.
If you or someone you know is pregnant and addicted to drugs, you may be feeling a painful mix of shame, fear, and uncertainty. You may be wondering, “What type of person continues to use drugs when she is carrying a baby?” The truth is, many do. As Brian Barnett, MD writes in The Fix:
“If one needs proof that addiction is a disease and not a moral failing, look into the eyes of a woman who knows her behavior is harming her baby, but still can’t stop. There is no better example of the ability of a chemical to overpower the deepest-rooted human instincts. ”
Substance addiction is a disease, not a choice. Those who are addicted to drugs do not always have the control or ability to quit cold-turkey on their own. (In fact, this can be very dangerous to do.) Even when learning about a pregnancy, after using drugs for some time, it can be extremely difficult to stop.
At the same time, it can be extremely difficult to seek help. Most people believe that, after becoming pregnant, women should do all they can to stay healthy and keep the baby safe. For a woman who has been struggling with drug abuse and addiction, however, it’s not easy to “get healthy” just like that. Not only does she have to face her this battle with drugs, she has to face the stigma surrounding her drug addiction while being pregnant, and the judgment from others as a result.
According to Barnett’s Fix article, pregnant women with addictions are also less likely to receive prenatal care – some out of fear of judgement, some afraid of being reported to legal authorities, and some simply because they can’t find a physician willing to treat them. Currently, twenty-three states consider drug use during pregnancy child abuse – which is contributing to the stigma around addiction and pregnancy, and lack of treatment among pregnant women who are addicted to drugs.
As a reputable drug treatment center for women in Connecticut, Turnbridge has encountered many young women who were addicted to drugs at the time of their pregnancy. Many were too discouraged to seek professional help at first, out of fear of what others might think. The problem with this is that many women and their babies will suffer as a result of not getting help.
The Effects of Drug Addiction While Pregnant
Approximately four percent of pregnant women use addictive drugs, despite the negative effects and as a result of their addiction, a chronic brain disease. And in 2017, an estimated 194,000 pregnant women used an illicit drug in the last month. The vast majority of these women used marijuana (many times, daily), while several thousand used opioid drugs. Using marijuana while pregnant can restrict fetal growth, and cause problems with neurological development in the baby. Using opioids while pregnant can lead to opioid withdrawal syndrome in the newborn.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, every 15 minutes in the United States, a baby is born with opioid withdrawal. This is known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) or Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome (NOWS), and is one of the most severe effects of drug use while pregnant.
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is a drug withdrawal syndrome that occurs in newborns who have been exposed to drugs in the womb. It can cause an array of painful symptoms in babies, such as seizures, trembling, fevers, nausea, pain, trouble sleeping, and trouble eating. Depending on the severity, babies with NAS can be kept hospitalized for up to twenty days. Their condition is then reported to the DCF.
In addition to NAS, other risks of drug abuse and addiction during pregnancy include low birthweight, birth defects, bloodborne infections, as well as premature birth, miscarriage, and stillbirth. To learn about the potential effects of drug use during pregnancy, please visit our article here.
Specialized Treatment for Pregnant Drug Users
If you or someone you love is pregnant and addicted to drugs, know that there is treatment available. Because women have unique needs in addiction treatment, it is important to find gender-specific program that is tailored to treating young women battling addiction. Not only will the staff be knowledgeable in the unique experiences of addicted women, they will also know how to effectively work with you throughout the healing process – understanding your situation with compassion and without judgement, and helping you to do the same.
You can learn about the core components to look for in a women’s-only treatment program by visiting our article here. In addition to finding a program that is gender-specific, it’s important to find a program that is able to address the needs of pregnant women, and that offers evidence-based treatment methods (which the NIDA places great value in for pregnant women and their babies).
Never at any point should you be afraid to seek help. If you are pregnant and in need of addiction treatment services, know that you can always contact Turnbridge. Call 877-581-1793 at any time, or visit us online to learn more about our drug rehab programs for women in Connecticut.