Pregnancy and Addiction: What You Need to Know

The number of babies born addicted to drugs has quadrupled in recent years.

Addiction alone is very dangerous for a mother, but pregnancy and addiction can lead to even more issues.

In addition to children being born addicted to drugs and having to suffer through withdrawals as babies, there are many other health risks attached to pregnancy and addiction.

Pregnant or not, there is always a risk of developing hepatitis C from sharing needles and potential overdoses in drug users. In the worst cases, this can cause death, both of the mother and the baby.

In this article, we’ll talk about some of the risks that come from being pregnant and addicted to drugs. We’ll also discuss what you can do if you are pregnant and battling an addiction.

Pregnancy and Addiction: Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)

Neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, is what occurs when children are born addicted to drugs. This is the long name for the symptoms of withdrawal a newborn will have to endure just after birth.

Adults who are addicted to opioids will often face withdrawal. This can be mitigated with medical withdrawals, something that many rehab programs offer.

Babies born with NAS may have a lower birth weight or appear jaundice.

It may not be apparent that a baby has NAS immediately. It may depend on the last time the mother took the medication she and the baby have become dependent on.

Symptoms of NAS include:

  • low birth weight
  • Fever
  • Blotchy skin
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty sleepy
  • Incessant yawning
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Excessive crying
  • Slow weight gain
  • Trouble sucking
  • Tight muscle tone
  • Seizures
  • Shaking and/or tremors

Depending on the medication or drug you took, the doctor will have a certain course of action. Remember, let your doctor know if you did use during your pregnancy. Be as thorough as possible.

This information may be embarrassing, but it is necessary to help treat your child accordingly.

Most babies recover in 5 to 30 days with proper medical intervention.

Opioid and Heroin Use and Pregnancy

The United States has been cracking down on the use of opioids in the general population. While heroin has always been illegal, it is also classed as an opioid.

But using opioids while pregnant presents its own set of risks.

Opioids are painkillers prescribed to you by your doctor. Often, they get used to mitigate chronic pain. They can be used temporarily to help those who have suffered from an illness or injury or who recently had surgery.

Babies born addicted to opioids face the risk of being born prematurely. This comes with its own set of risks, and in the worst case scenario, can lead to the death of the mother and baby.

Birth “Defects”

Babies born to a parent addicted to drugs who are not managing their addiction may have a wide range of issues and disorders after they are born, in addition to those listed above.

Children born addicted to drugs have a much higher risk of SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

SIDS is defined as a sudden and inexplicable death of a baby under the age of one. While they are still no answers as to what causes these sudden deaths, doctors do know that children born addicted to drugs are much more likely to have it.

Drugs taken during pregnancy can also cause dysfunction in the child’s nervous system. This means that it can lead to behavioral issues. It is also correlated with poor academic performance later on in life.

Some children who are born addicted to drugs also have smaller heads than other children. Their brains may not have properly developed in the womb, which means that their heads will be smaller than that in other children. In severe cases, this can lead to learning difficulties and mental impairment.

Understanding Stillbirth and Miscarriage

Women who take drugs during their pregnancies without help from a doctor are much more likely to give birth to children who are stillborn. They are also much more likely to suffer from a miscarriage before the baby is due.

These issues are avoidable through treatment and stopping drug use for good. Talking with a professional and getting help early on can protect your baby and ensure fewer issues are present once they’re born.

What to Do If You’re Addicted to Drugs and Pregnant

If you’re addicted and pregnant, there is hope.

Firstly, if you’re an addict and find you’re pregnant, do not stop taking the drugs right away. This can lead to serious problems, including a miscarriage.

Instead, speak to your GP or obstetrician. He or she can discuss a treatment with you to help you ease off of the drugs safely. Often times this will be with medication-assisted treatment, shortened to MAT.

Doctors who work with addicts know exactly how to prescribe this medication, so it will be safe for you and your baby. Although many people prefer not to take medicine during pregnancy, it is much safer than continuing to use street drugs or opioids.

Make sure any doctor who prescribes you medication knows that you are pregnant. This is to prevent him or her from prescribing you something that could potentially harm your unborn child.

Getting Help

Pregnancy and addiction can be very scary. It may be especially so if you feel you have nowhere to turn. Fortunately, medical providers are not judgemental and will help you find a way to ensure that you’re able to deliver safely.

Don’t suffer in silence and hope that your baby is born all right. Instead, have a frank and serious conversation with your provider.

For more information about drug addiction, and where to find centers who can help you with treatment, visit our blog today.