Most people who have never experienced drug addiction or alcoholism could not understand how a woman could ever abuse any substance while pregnant. However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, (a branch of the United States federal government) nearly a quarter million women used illicit substances while pregnant in the year 1992. This represents an astonishing 5% of the total pregnancies for that year. This is especially concerning when you consider that the data used to gather these figures came from self-reported surveys. This means that the actual number of women who used drugs while pregnant is likely much higher, indicating that even pregnancy and motherhood is not enough to break the chains of addiction.
Other than what should be obvious physical risks for both mother and baby, there are a great deal of associative risks taken by pregnant women who use drugs. Consequently pregnant women who use drugs are more likely to be involved with violence, develop an illness such as an STD, use tobacco and/or alcohol, and generally be in a state of poor health. All of these issues pose serious risks for an unborn baby in addition to any damage being done by illicit substances crossing the placenta. Risks for specific types of drugs are found below:
*Cocaine: Women who use cocaine while pregnant subject their unborn baby to physical dependence to this dangerous street drug. This includes very real risks of dangerous miscarriages, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and learning and behavioral disabilities.
*Marijuana: Use of cannabis by pregnant women can result in low birth weight, premature birth or pre-term labor, small head circumference and difficulties in maintaining appetite and sleeping patterns, often leading to serious weight issues. Additionally, children who are born to mothers that used marijuana may have difficulty with state regulation, which allows a child to respond properly (or not) to stimuli such as light, sound and touch.
*Heroin: Heroin has been shown to have severe and potentially fatal effects on unborn and newborn babies. Heroin use during pregnancy can result in premature birth, still birth, pulmonary disorders, severe substance withdrawal, and permanent learning disabilities. Additionally, these children are at greater risk of SIDS. Mothers who use heroin during pregnancy should not abruptly stop without proper medical supervision and treatment with drugs like methadone.
*Club Drugs: Drugs such as ecstasy and methamphetamine have not been studied intently in relation to their use by pregnant women. However, limited studies have indicated that club drug use while pregnant can result in babies that exhibit withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, continuous crying and even seizures. Additionally, some evidence suggests that these children may be more likely to develop learning and behavioral disorders.
If you are pregnant and you have a drug problem, your life and the life of your unborn child could be at serious risk. Getting help now is vital for the long-term safety of your child and to ensure that you mitigate any exposure you might be creating for criminal prosecution. The life inside you is precious. Protect it by calling us right now for a free, confidential consultation. If you feel like you don’t know what to do, then call us. We’re here for you.