The creation of life is a beautiful thing, something that nearly all hopeful parents dream about as they grow older. They say men become fathers the minute their child is born, and women become mothers the minute they discover they’re pregnant. But despite those inherent traits of mankind, not every parent is perfect. We all make mistakes and learn from them, only some are more drastic than others. And our first priority should be cultivating the finest life for millions of children that will be entering this world. But not all of them have an equal chance at survival. That’s because each year a number of those babies suffer from birth defects directly resulting from substance abuse and drug addiction that occurred during pregnancy. That number has grown to include over 4% of Pregnant women. Which can be traced back to nearly 176,200 babies that are exposed to potential birth defects!
Addiction is a devastating disease that can cause a range of unintended consequences for those who are closest to the addict. No relationship is harmed more than the one between an addicted mother and her unborn baby.
Addiction and pregnancy statistics reveal alarming trends. Even expecting mothers who think they know the risks seem powerless to quit using. If you’re reading this and feel worried that drug and alcohol abuse is affecting your pregnancy, it’s time to learn more — and get serious about quitting.
How Using Drugs and Alcohol Affects Your Unborn Baby
Although it is true that decades ago expectant mothers felt comfortable drinking and smoking during pregnancy, these behaviors cause serious, long-term effects in exposed children, according to DrugAbuse.gov. Even smoking cigarettes, a legal activity, is closely associated with a higher risk of infant death, sudden infant death syndrome, stillbirth, slow growth, underweight babies, preterm birth and respiratory problems. And that’s just cigarettes — alcohol and drugs cause even more health problems.
Did you know that a pregnant mother who cannot stop drinking may give her baby a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder? These disorders can cause permanent damage, including low birth weight, as well as behavioral and cognitive problems.
Using drugs during pregnancy, especially narcotics such as heroin or painkillers, causes your baby to be born addicted. That means your baby’s first experience after birth will be suffering through withdrawal.
Opiates are particularly dangerous for newborn babies because of symptoms such as seizures, breathing and eating problems, and low birth weight. It also causes your baby’s brain to bleed, and expecting mothers who shoot up may expose their unborn child to HIV/AIDS. Some babies born to opiate-addicted mothers die during withdrawal.
The effects of using are terrifying:
- Mothers who smoke marijuana damage their unborn babies’ brains.
- Mothers who use drugs risk placental abruption, a life-threatening condition.
- Mothers who abuse cocaine or methamphetamine risk severe bleeding. Cocaine abuse during pregnancy is also associated with a high risk of birth defects of the kidneys, brain and genitals. Infant withdrawal, muscle spasms, feeding issues and growth problems are also common.
- Mothers who use hallucinogens such as PCP and LSD expose their children to defects such as low birth weight and brain damage. They may also inflict harm on the baby because of things they do while high. Individuals who abuse these drugs may behave violently or unpredictably. PCP can also cause infant withdrawal syndrome.
Facts About Pregnancy and Addiction
According to researchers at the University of North Carolina College of Medicine, pregnant women are more likely to use drugs than you might think:
- Up to 25 percent of pregnancies indicated at least one use of illegal drugs.
- The average pregnant mother will take four or five drugs during her pregnancy, including controlled and illicit substances.
These alarming figures may be because women in their twenties are more likely to use drugs than older adults. Substance abuse rates for women of this age are climbing.
Physicians mostly assume that expecting mothers are drug-free during pregnancy, which is why they are unlikely to screen for abuse. Because the signs of drug use are often subtle, it can be weeks or months before a physician detects trouble.
The good news is that pregnant mothers are often highly motivated to seek treatment. Pregnancy creates a distinct opportunity for an expecting mom to get help. With the right care plan, an expecting mom can quit using, get help with withdrawal symptoms and protect her baby at the same time.
How to Know If You Need Help With Addiction
If you are not sure if you need help from a center for addiction and pregnancy, ask yourself:
- Do I keep telling myself that I will quit using soon — but I never do?
- Do I feel ashamed, deep down, about my drinking and drug use?
- Do I lie or hide how much I use?
- Do I have withdrawal symptoms when I try to stop?
- Do I feel afraid for the health of my baby because I drink or do drugs, but I don’t know what to do?
If these thoughts sound familiar, you need to get help now.
The Benefits of Getting Sober
If you’ve thought about getting sober before but didn’t really believe a problem exists, you might be suffering from denial. You — and your baby — will never regret getting help. When you get sober, you can:
- Quit feeling ashamed and worried about your behavior.
- Give your baby the healthy start he deserves.
- Avoid expensive and potentially life-threatening health problems.
- Earn the respect of your friends and family members.
- Save the money you would have spent on alcohol or drugs and put it toward building a new life instead.
- Think clearly and make better decisions for your family.
- Help your baby be born at a healthy weight, free from devastating withdrawal symptoms and life-lasting birth defects.
If You Need Help
Help us share this infographic and spread awareness on the large number of drug-related pregnancies that pose a threat to the lives of future generations!