Substance Use While Pregnant
Have you just found out that you are pregnant?
Are you stuck at home and find yourself wanting to use to ease the boredom?
What do you do first? It is important for a pregnant woman to know how to take care of herself and in turn take care of her baby – even if you are choosing adoption. Immediately upon finding out you are pregnant, a woman must stop smoking, using drugs, and stop drinking alcohol to ensure health. Good nutrition, exercise, and reducing stress are all important to a mother and baby’s well-being too.
Abstaining from alcohol and drug use (illegal and prescription), unless a Doctor has advised otherwise, is critical during pregnancy. Adoption Choices of Missouri strives to offer education and information on substance use during pregnancy, enabling birth mothers to make responsible and appropriate choices. We know it’s an uncertain time – the world feels scary, your situation feels scarier – but using drugs is not the answer. At minimum, you get a moment of escape. At max, you die. Or risk the death of your unborn baby.
We are committed to providing a judgment free environment where substance use can be openly and honestly discussed. It’s easy to deny substance use out of guilt, embarrassment, or fear that your baby won’t be adopted. But that’s just not true! First, we can offer referrals to community resources for treatment and support – even during the quarantine lockdown.
Next, our adoptive families share the same compassion and understanding for our birth mothers and are excited to build their family! While it’s true that some adoptive parents may not be open to drug or alcohol use during pregnancy, many wouldn’t hesitate to adopt a baby with this exposure. This is because adoptive parents receive a lot of education about drug and alcohol use. They understand the risks of this during pregnancy. While they might prefer that the baby wasn’t exposed to drugs or alcohol during pregnancy, it won’t make them change their minds about adopting.
Our goals: healthy mothers and healthy babies!
Why Should I Be Concerned About Drug Use During Pregnancy?
Mothers who use substances during pregnancy put themselves and their baby at risk. Studies suggest, women who use substances are less likely to seek pre-natal care. They are at higher risk to contracting STDs, HIV, and Hepatitis. The adverse effect on the baby can include poor growth, birth defects, premature birth, and seizures among others.
If you are thinking, well I’m “giving up” my baby for adoption anyway, please consider 1) you are not giving up your baby, you are placing him/her with a loving family and 2) you are giving your baby life. No life deserves suffering. Read on…
Different substances can cause different problems for the baby:
Heroin and related Opiates including Methadone – Seizures, and severe withdrawal symptoms which can last as long a 6 months
Cocaine – Increased rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Alcohol – Has significant effects on the growing fetus, and baby. Babies with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome have deformities which affect their facial features, head and heart. Their growth is impacted, and they also born with intellectual disabilities (mental retardation) which impacts the rest of their lives. The withdrawal period for alcohol can be a long a 18 months.
Amphetamines – Linked to premature births and babies with low birth weights. Babies can also experience bleeding in their brains.
Marijuana – Can cause baby to have low birth weight
Cigarettes – Increased risk of premature births, still births, and low birth weight.
Neo-Natal Abstinence Syndrome
Neo-Natal Abstinence Syndrome refers to symptoms and problems babies experience when they withdraw from drugs they were exposed to prior to birth. Everything you put into your body as a birth mother is also put into the body of the fetus directly from the mother’s blood stream, to the baby, through the placenta. Anything from simple things like caffeine to illegal drugs to alcohol has opportunity to harm the baby. Chances of birth defects such as premature and underweight babies, stillborn births, behavioral issues, brain structure changes, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), addiction, and more.
Any drug which is taken during pregnancy has an effect on the baby. When a baby is born addicted to substances the baby will begin to show symptoms of withdrawal sometime after birth. How soon the symptoms begin to show depends upon the substance, but usually symptoms will begin to show anything from a few hours after birth, or up to 10 days after birth.
The following list gives examples of some of the symptoms newborn babies may experience:
- High-pitched crying
- Tremors (trembling)
- Irritability (excessive crying)
- Sleep problems
- Vomiting and Diarrhea which can lead to Dehydration
- Tight muscle Tone
- Weak sucking and Poor feeding
- Sweating, Fever, or Inability to Regulate their own Temperature
- Rapid Breathing
It is important to understand, babies experiencing withdrawal symptoms may require specialized medical treatments to safely manage their withdrawal symptoms.
Neo Natal Abstinence Syndrome Treatments
Treatments for Neo Natal Abstinence usually involves the baby being given medications to control their often severe symptoms. Severe symptoms would include seizures. The type of medications used to treat symptoms will depend on the substance the baby was exposed to, and how well they respond to the treatment. Methadone is used to treat Heroin and other Opiates; Morphine is used to treat Benzodiazepine withdrawal; and Benzodiazepines are used to treat Alcohol withdrawal. These are some serious medications to give a tiny baby, but necessary to manage their pain and symptoms. Many babies require months of treatment in the hospital before they are healthy enough to go home.
Babies suffering, and it really is suffering, with withdrawal symptoms need specialized care. Usually, babies will begin to show symptoms in the hospital shortly after birth and before discharge. When symptoms are noticed by the medical staff they will begin treating the baby for the withdrawal symptoms. Other babies, may have already left the hospital before any symptoms begin to show. If this is the case, medical treatment should be sought as soon as the symptoms appear.
How Can Neo-Natal Abstinence Syndrome Be Prevented?
This is easy. In order to prevent Neo-Natal Abstinence Syndrome it is preferable for a mother to stop substance use prior to becoming pregnant. If this is not possible, or the pregnancy was not planned, a woman should stop using substances as soon as she realizes she is pregnant. Help is available, and we can help you find it!
If you have used drugs or alcohol during your pregnancy, it is important to be open and honest with your baby’s medical team. Denying substance use is fine when it’s your own health involved, you have that right, and the right to make our own decisions, good or bad. However, when your baby can’t speak for itself, it is time to stand up and do the right thing.
Denying substance use is pointless anyway when your baby is showing clear signs of withdrawal. The medical team will know. Many women will deny their substance use until they see the distress their baby is in from the withdrawal. It is at this point reality hits and the regret sets in, but it is not too late to stand up and do the right thing by providing the medical team with the information they need to correctly treat the baby.