Rehab 4 Addiction

Addiction and Dealing With Pregnancy

Discovering you are pregnant and going through the process of pregnancy is a situation that can lead to a whole range of emotions from joy to fear, from excitement to anxiety.

If being pregnant is accompanied by substance misuse then there are serious and potentially life-threatening issues that need to be faced quickly.

These issues do not need to be faced alone, however, and in this article, we want to talk about all the things that might come up for a pregnant woman who is dealing with a substance use disorder (SUD).

All the necessary help is available and we want to look at ways to find the support needed so that both mother and baby can be happy and healthy.

What are the effects of substance misuse?

Substance use disorders are detrimental to the health of any woman. Whether or not someone is pregnant, it is important to get help to deal with addictions and substance misuse.

All addictions have negative effects on the lives of the one going through it, and often on the lives of those around them as well. Drugs and alcohol in excessive amounts can lead to many different health repercussions as well as causing issues financially and between loved ones.

Alcohol and drug misuse can lead to damage to organs such as the liver and kidneys as well as an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. As substance use increases the body also develops tolerance which means more of the substance is required in order to experience the same effect.

Rising levels of tolerance also lead to increased chances of unintentional overdose which can be fatal.

Alcohol and drug use frequently lead to further negative behaviour patterns both due to the effect of the substance as well as in order to obtain it.

Substance use disorders are costly and as the disorder becomes more severe the substance takes more and more priority in the person’s life. This can lead to unpaid bills, struggles with food costs and in many cases crime.

Many substances that are addictive have an effect on the area of the brain that is responsible for decision making and the ability to make judgements.

This is what leads to people with SUDs behaving in ways that they would not previously have considered acceptable, and unfortunately, it is very common that violent and abusive behaviours can also begin.

All these negative behaviour changes can serve to push away relationships and cause the sufferer to feel increasingly less understood and more isolated

Substance use disorders and pregnancy

All of the aspects of substance misuse that we have looked at so far take on an added level of danger when someone is also pregnant.

Anything that a woman puts into her body when she is pregnant is also shared by her baby and this includes the chemicals in addictive substances.

Pregnancy is also a time when many women are in need of additional support from family and friends whereas many people with SUDs struggle to maintain good relationships.

It is important to be aware of the whole truth of how substance misuse can affect pregnancy.

Sadly, there is a strong possibility in the early stages of pregnancy that if you are currently abusing substances or your substance misuse has caused serious damage, you may well miscarry.

The number one priority for a pregnant woman with SUD needs to be getting the help necessary to get free from addiction and to stay free. This is for the mother’s benefit, as well as for her baby.

Some pregnant women with SUD do not seek help with their substance use because of feelings of fear or shame.

Please recognise that by seeking help you are doing what is best for your child and that knowing this is far more powerful than any worry about what someone else might think of you.

Will a baby be harmed by substance misuse?

There is no way of saying with certainty that a baby will or will not be harmed by substance misuse and that is another reason it is so important to immediately seek help in order to stop.

If you have been misusing drugs or alcohol and that you are already two to three months pregnant, it is still possible that no harm will have been done.

However, in order to increase the baby’s chances of being healthy, it is vital that you stop using substances. There is nothing more important you can do for your baby at this point than getting well and staying well.

If you have been misusing substances during your pregnancy, speak to a medical professional about the possibility of tests to check the baby’s health and development.

What are the effects of drugs and alcohol on a baby in the womb?

The effects of using drugs and alcohol while pregnant on the health of the baby can be extremely serious.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can seriously impede the baby’s development and can lead to foetal alcohol syndromes. These disorders can cause lasting cognitive and behavioural problems as well as slowed growth[1].

Drug use during pregnancy can cause a physical dependency in the baby resulting in neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) caused by withdrawal. NAS is extremely dangerous and puts the baby at risk of seizures, breathing difficulties and even death.

Getting treatment for addiction during pregnancy

If you have decided to get treatment for substance misuse after discovering you are pregnant, you are making the best decision for yourself and your child.

It is important however to really commit yourself to recovery for your own welfare so that you have the right attitude for staying sober for good.

Do not immediately quit your substance without medical help. Doing this could be very dangerous for you and for your baby and can even result in miscarriage.

There are treatments available for the care of babies affected by opioid and methadone use by their mothers.

These still involve necessary treatment for withdrawal symptoms and, whatever treatment plan is put in place, both mother and baby will require continued close monitoring[2].

Although recovery from addiction can feel like an impossible task, it is very possible, and many, many people recover from substance use disorders thanks to the variety of treatment possibilities that are available.

It is worth considering the option of residential treatment where it is possible to be monitored regularly so that you can feel assured that your health and that of your baby is being kept a close eye on.

Whether or not you choose a residential treatment option, give yourself plenty of time to work on your substance use in order that you give yourself the best chance of achieving long-term recovery.

Studies show that longer periods in treatment correlate with better addiction recovery success rates.

It is possible to speak to professionals regarding treatment online or by getting contact details from their websites. You can also speak to your GP.

The important thing is to be open from the beginning about your pregnancy so that this can be considered when choosing the most appropriate form of treatment. You will be helped in coming to a decision about what works best for you.

If you are getting help for your substance use and are committed to recovery, there is no reason why and your child cannot go on to enjoy happy and healthy lives.

Many people with SUD only take recovery seriously when they are faced with a threat to their health, but in this case, you can choose to do it for you both.




Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.