For many women out there, pregnancy – or at least the news thereof – is a blissful part of life. But nurturing a tiny human within the womb is no easy task. Fetuses need all the right nutrients and protein and plenty of other good stuff that requires forethought from the mother. And while the jury is largely out on the use of mild drugs, herbs or even an occasional drink during pregnancy, there just isn’t any room in a healthy pregnancy for drug or alcohol addiction. This puts a mother who is addicted in a terribly difficult position.
The need to get clean is urgent. Recovery is not something a pregnant woman should slowly transition into – it needs to take place immediately and, in some cases, under the supervision of medical professionals.
Drinking and using drugs during pregnancy isn’t just dangerous for the fetus, increasing the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and birth defects, but a mother who uses drugs during pregnancy is likely to lose custody of her child at birth if the infant tests positive for drugs. And in some states these days, mothers whose drug use during pregnancy leads to the death of their fetus or infant may actually face prison time.
So what can you do if you or someone you know is pregnant but also addicted?
Course of Action
The first thing an addicted pregnant woman needs to do is assess her specific addiction. Is it impossible for the pregnant mom to simply stop using? Will an action like this result in physical complications? In the case of some substances, the answer may be no. Women who find themselves in situations like these can consider themselves lucky. With a good support group, accountability and commitment, they can give their baby the pregnancy he or she deserves.
For other women, figuring out how to navigate addiction amid pregnancy is not so easy. For women who are alcoholics, a detoxification may need to take place where experienced medical professionals can guide the woman toward sobriety while helping her to deal with the physical side effects of withdrawal. For women who are addicted to a drug like heroin, help from medical professionals will likely be needed. In some cases, pregnant women are treated with drugs considered to be less harmful to the fetus, like methadone, in order to treat an addiction.
Women who are pregnant and also addicted face more hardships than most people can imagine. Pregnancy is physically trying for most women. From daily nausea and vomiting to deep muscle aches, the experience can take a toll on just about any part of the body. Detoxification is also a physically grating process. Added to these physical difficulties are the psychological difficulties a woman in this position faces. Most women in this situation – even those who are never able to fully deal with their addiction while pregnant – struggle with a great deal of shame, fear, humiliation and self-loathing.
Remember to be patient, compassionate and willing to look at the situation from all angles. Find help quitting the substance you are addicted to and talk to a medical professional you can trust immediately.