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The Importance of Quality Substance Abuse Treatment for Pregnant Women

While anyone addicted to drugs or alcohol should receive proper treatment, that need is compounded when it comes to expectant mothers. This is because pregnant women have to worry about the health and development of their unborn babies. If you are a pregnant woman with a substance abuse problem or know of a mother-to-be with a problem, it’s good to understand the risks involved and what treatment entails.

From Mother to Child

It’s common knowledge that whatever a mother ingests while pregnant travels to the baby in her womb. A number of issues can develop with the baby if the mother uses illegal substances or drinks alcohol while pregnant. For instance, the baby could be born with a low birth weight, which could put him or her in danger. It’s also not uncommon for babies born of mothers with addiction or substance abuse issues to be born well before their estimated due date or have birth defects even when she or his is born during the estimated date of birth. Finally, babies born of mothers with addiction or substance abuse problems are at a greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Receiving Proper Treatment

Rehab for pregnant mothers is vital for a number of reasons. One of the biggest is that this demographic is under substantial stress combined from being pregnant and the mental anxiety and depression that can accompany substance abuse. Pregnant women in need of rehab may not get proper prenatal care to take care of themselves and their babies, and they may not be eating right while struggling with their condition. Additionally, even if an expectant mother enrolls in a treatment plan, she could have a hard time remaining in the program.

Helping Pregnant Women With Alcohol or Drug Abuse Issues

Pregnant women who display signs of alcoholism or substance abuse should receive priority access to proper treatment programs and resources. Additionally, they should also be screened for STIs common to those addicted to substances, such as HIV and hepatitis. Such screening can better ensure the baby remains healthy, and pregnant mothers need to know whether they can breastfeed.

Expectant mothers also need to be fully informed of the inherent risks of using maintenance medications such as buprenorphine and methadone. Unlike other individuals with drug or substance abuse issues, pregnant mothers in rehab may require additional resources and services such as:

  • Parenting classes

  • Transportation (for doctor visits)

  • Childcare

  • Child health and nutrition

Babies Born in Withdrawal

In addition to placing concern on the mother, babies born of mothers with substance abuse or addiction issues also need proper care and attention. There’s a chance the baby could be born displaying withdrawal symptoms, and mothers, as well as those providing treatment, should be aware of the signs of withdrawal in babies:

  • Hyperactive reflexes

  • Poor feeding

  • Blotchy skin

  • Seizures

  • Sweating

  • Rapid breathing

  • Fever

  • Excessive crying

Newborns who do display signs of being in withdrawal should receive medical oversight to better avoid life-threatening issues.

Mothers close to their due date who have recently enrolled in a treatment program may be understandably worried about giving birth to a baby in withdrawal. There’s evidence the maintenance medication buprenorphine can reduce withdrawal symptoms in babies.

Overcoming the Stigma and Shame

It’s understandable that mothers-to-be who also suffer from addiction are worried about being judged for drinking alcohol or using substances while pregnant. That said, women who are members of this demographic have to focus more on their mental and physical health as well the health and future of their babies. Letting the opinions and stigmas of others block them from getting the treatment they need and deserve can prove even more dangerous for mothers and unborn babies alike.

There are resources and treatment centers available for pregnant women of all ages who struggle with addiction. Getting treatment and being properly educated can make a world of difference for both mother and child.