It is understandably difficult for people who have never struggled with addiction to feel shocked and appalled when a pregnant woman becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol. However, few people realize that just as pregnancy could not stop a serious disease such as cancer, it is not going to stop an addicted pregnant woman from using. Because addiction is a neurological disease, uncontrollable urges will be present regardless of any type of consequences or incentives to stop using. This is why people must get help for addiction- they simply can not do it alone. And because the same is true of pregnant women who are addicted to drugs, ensuring that education about pregnancy and addiction is readily available is critical to helping expecting women to help themselves.
According to a study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Addiction more than 5% of all women who were pregnant in 1992 abused drugs. This totals an unbelievable 250,000 pregnant women. Figures like these are all the more alarming when you consider that the study utilized self-reported data that was very likely at least partly incorrect. These numbers tell us that there are a great deal of pregnant women placing themselves and their unborn babies in grave danger that goes much farther than just the actual physical consequences of drug use.
Women who use drugs while pregnant are categorically more at risk of being involved in dangerous, unhealthy or violent situations. This includes being more likely to experience occurrences of violent crimes such as rape, murder, robbery, and even suicide. Health risks among drug users are even more dangerous to unborn children; especially risk of infectious disease such as herpes, syphilis, HIV, Staph infections and other conditions that can potentially potentially fatal infections for a fetus- and the mother. When you combine these associative risks with the actual physical risks of using drugs while pregnant you create a serious likelihood of disastrous marriages. Specific consequences for the most commonly used drugs by pregnant women are:
Marijuana: The drug used the most by pregnant women, marijuana can result in pre-term labor, premature birth, low birth weight, small head circumference (a smaller head means a smaller brain) sleep disorders, state regulation disorders and appetite problems.
Heroin: Heroin use during pregnancy is especially dangerous. The risk of having a stillborn or premature birth is exceptionally high; equally as high as the likelihood of the baby being born addicted to heroin. Heroin has been shown to result in low birth weight, lung and pulmonary disorders, cardiac difficulties and other serious, long-term health issues.
Club Drugs: Because most of these drugs- such as meth or ecstasy- are relatively new, their effects on pregnant women have not been extensively studied. However, limited studies show that babies born to mothers who are addicted to club drugs are likely to substance-dependent as well. Club drugs can have severe effects on an infant, including seizures and continual, intensive crying for long periods of time for apparently no reason.
Cocaine: This street drug is surprisingly popular among pregnant women who have substance abuse problems. Cocaine use during pregnancy can lead to premature birth, stillborn fetuses, severe substance dependence, cerebral palsy, miscarriages and mental retardation, among many other risks.
If you or someone you know has a drug problem and is pregnant, you need to get help right now. Addiction treatment is readily available and could easily mean the difference between life and death: for both the baby and the mother.