Pregnancy is indeed a special time for a woman, but for those struggling with addiction, it can be an especially difficult journey.
Addiction’s Effect on Pregnant Women
Addiction can cause a woman to worry about the wellbeing of their unborn child and the effects of their situation on their baby’s health. Therefore, it is vital that pregnant women, who are struggling with addiction or a substance use disorder (SUD), to receive the help and support they need through medical intervention and rehab services.
While addiction can be a lifelong journey, it can be managed. Several factors may contribute to developing an addiction, including genetics, mental illness, trauma, and stress.
Addiction can cause a number of negative health outcomes for a pregnant woman and their unborn child. For the woman, these may include mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, physical health issues, such as nausea and vomiting, and social issues, such as isolation and relationship problems.
When a woman is depressed, she may avoid receiving the prenatal care needed to ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
Even worse, addiction can lead to pregnancy complications, including preterm labor, low birth weight, and oxygen deprivation resulting in stillbirth.
The unsafe use of drugs during pregnancy may trigger development disorders in children as well. For instance, one study shows that fetal exposure to cannabis was associated with subtle neurobehavioral disturbances, such as prolonged and exaggerated startle reflexes and an increase in hand-mouth behavior. Infants also cried at a higher pitch and experienced more disturbed sleep cycles.
Symptoms Of Prenatal Opioid And Cocaine Exposure On a Fetus
Efects from opioid and cocaine exposure may appear during the newborn period in certain symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms may appear in the form of:
Irregular and poor feeding patterns
Increased heart rate and respiration
Hypertonia (increased muscle tone – causing problems with arm or leg movement)
Problems with consoling the infant
Symptoms of Prenatal Cocaine and Methamphetamine Exposure On a Newborn Baby
Prenatal cocaine use may also affect fetal growth. In a similar way, prenatal exposure to methamphetamine may hinder fetal development or trigger neurobehavioral problems, including reduced arousal, increased anxiety, and poor movement.
A child with prenatal drug exposure is more likely to develop certain disruptive behavioral problems as well. These issues may take the form of oppositional defiant disorder, cognitive problems, or impaired intellectual or language development. Children may also exhibit a poor memory or have a difficult time learning from their mistakes.
In addition, a child who is exposed to drugs prenatally has a higher chance of developing a substance use disorder (SUV) themself. Often children with this history experience lower self-esteem or more mood disorders over time.
Symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Exposure
Fetal alcohol exposure may affect a child’s cognition, growth, and achievements throughout life2. Researchers also found that infants exposed to cannabis while in the womb exhibited a small-for-age head circumference well into their teens including intellectual and cognitive deficits.
Mothers who are addicted are more likely to abuse their children or overlook certain aspects of their care as well. Therefore, it is imperative that a woman who has an addiction problem receive medical and addiction treatment immediately.
Treatment options for pregnant mothers with addiction
Treatment for addiction during pregnancy can occur in a number of different settings, including residential treatment sites and outpatient programs and facilities.
Treatment options will vary depending on the severity of the addiction and the level of care needed. Therefore, therapy may include a combination of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and counseling.
Drug Therapies for Pregnant Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) Patients
For example, medication for opioid use disorder or MOUD defines treatment for pregnant women with an opioid use disorder (OUD). The treatment may include methadone and buprenorphine as first-line therapy options for pregnant OUD women. This MAT plan is combined with medical services and behavioral therapy.
Although some clinicians may use the drug, naltrexone to treat pregnant women with OUD, the current research on its safety remains limited. Therefore, medical practitioners recommend that women should already be taking the drug before pregnancy.
Why a Team Medical Intervention is Recommended
To make things work, the medical provider and OUD patient must collaborate their efforts during and after pregnancy. Coordination between a prenatal care provider and a professional with experience in OUD or a specific addiction issue is vital.
Treating Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome NAS
Sometimes, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)1 may result from exposure to a medical-assisted program like MOUD. However, this should not deter health care providers from intervening with this type of therapy.
NAS represents a group of conditions resulting from an infant’s withdrawal from prenatal drug exposure. This syndrome is brought on from the use of opioids by pregnant women. Therefore, close monitoring is needed for addicted women before and after delivery
While treatment during pregnancy is particularly challenging, it is also incredibly beneficial for both the patient and their unborn child. Make sure the treatment program then is especially tailored to pregnant women and offers accessibility in terms of location and affordability.
Tools And Resources For Pregnant Mothers With Addiction
When in an addiction program, it is also important that women can easily communicate with loved ones or have access to support groups and counseling. These types of connections help ensure against relapses and encourage rehab success.
What The Key Findings Show
Scientific evidence that is well supported shows that SUDs may be effectively treated that lead to rates of recurrence no higher than the rates for chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, asthma, or diabetes. If the patient receives a broad scope of continuing care, recovery is inevitable.
As noted, medications may offer an effective way to treat serious problems with SUD. The FDA has approved three medicines to treat alcohol use disorders and three other medicines to treat people with OUD.
Both SUD and substance misuse can be easily diagnosed through screening processes, with less severe disorders that involve alcohol abuse requiring shorter intervention periods. The main goals and the general management methods for treatment for SUD are identical to the treatment goals of chronic illnesses.
Therefore, the health care provider’s aim is to treat patients so they can overcome their primary symptoms and improve their health at the same time. These objectives stand,, whether a patient is experiencing a co-occuring SUD or another psychiatric condition. The key elements of care include treatment medicines, behavioral therapies, and recovery support services, or RSS.
If you’re pregnant and have an addiction or you have a loved one who is pregnant and is using drugs or alcohol, you need to address the problem immediately. This type of addiction can start a chain reaction – one that can lead to future and ongoing problems that affect a patient’s mental and physical health.
1.Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder Before, During, and After Pregnancy, available here.
2.Understanding Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, available here.