Looking for Immediate Help?

Speak with a Specialist Now.

(855) 550-0750

Table of Contents


Pregnancy and addiction can lead to troubling consequences for both the mother and the baby. Both the mother and the fetus can suffer health problems due to substance during the pregnancy. To prevent this, there are many anti-drug campaigns sponsored by the government. These campaigns aim to raise awareness on issues related to pregnancy and addiction.

Unfortunately, these campaigns don’t always get through to pregnant women. Studies show that more than 4.4% of pregnant women in the U.S. will abuse one or more substances during their pregnancy. The exact numbers are a mystery. Many women are hesitant to report drug use due to fear of reprisal. Due to this reason, it’s reasonable to assume that a much larger percentage of women struggle with substance abuse during their pregnancy.

The types of substances that are most commonly abused by pregnant women will depend on many factors. It will depend on whether the pregnant mother abused drugs before the pregnancy. It will also depend on their environment. Commonly abused substances include cocaine, alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines and prescription drugs.

Some women will also continue to abuse illicit drugs, like heroin. It’s not that they want to, but rather that they cannot manage their addiction. Many women actually abuse more than one substance at a time. It’s not unusual for the substance consumed to be transferred to the baby through the placenta.

Due to the serious consequences that can come from substance abuse during pregnancy, it’s vital for pregnant women to seek medical help and assistance as soon as they can. Fortunately, many drug rehab centers offer specialized treatment programs that cater to this demographic.

Speak to an Addiction Specialist Now

Additional Statistics Addiction and Pregnancy

Many studies have looked at the number of pregnant women who used illicit drugs in various years. Below are some of the statistics from data collected between 2013 to 2014.

“In 2013, approximately 27,000 babies were dependent on drugs the moment that they were born.”

While the numbers may not offer an accurate estimate, as not all women will report drug abuse, it does give us some idea on which drugs are most popular:

  • Over 120,000 pregnant women abused marijuana during their pregnancy, making this the most commonly abused drug during pregnancy
  • About 95,000 women admit to using cocaine during their pregnancy
  • Less than 10,000 women reported abusing crack, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, prescription stimulants like Adderall, and sedatives respectively when pregnant
  • Over 20,000 women admitted to abusing prescription pain relievers when pregnant
  • Almost 50,000 women reported abusing other illicit drugs, like club drugs, when pregnant

Pregnant mothers who abuse various drugs should seek treatment as soon as possible. Addiction recovery can protect their children from the dangers of drugs. The addiction treatment programs can also explore whether the use of the various substances have already caused any damages.

It’s important to put a stop to pregnancy and addiction today. This epidemic has long-lasting consequences for our community. It also places a huge toll on our healthcare system.

Looking for Immediate Help?

Speak with a Specialist Now


The Risks of Substance Abuse During Pregnancy

Females who are pregnant will need to discontinue drug use during their pregnancy. This is the only method that will keep their babies safe. They should also avoid certain foods and beverages, like liquor.

To ensure that the babies develop properly and healthily, many doctors will recommend that the mothers take prenatal vitamins. Common prenatal vitamins that can promote healthy development include folic acid, iron and calcium. The dose of supplements will depend on the needs and physical condition of each pregnant mother.

With that said, those who do continue to abuse drugs during their pregnancy are putting their baby in harm’s way.  Substance abuse can lead to many complications. Some of these complications are more severe than others. It’s important to note that each baby will also develop different complications based on the amount of drugs that the mothers abused, the length of the abuse and many other factors.

Some of the most common complications associated with substance abuse use during pregnancy are listed below.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs)

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) include many different disorders that are caused specifically by alcohol consumption during the pregnancy. The liquor will actually travel through the umbilical cord and to the baby. This can lead to a whole host of side effects.

Depending on the amount of alcohol consumed, and many other factors, the conditions and symptoms that each baby will struggle with will differ. A baby with FASD may develop the following symptoms and mannerisms:

  • Abnormal facial features
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Delays in speech and language development
  • Heart and kidney problems
  • Hyperactive behavior and disorders
  • Learning disabilities
  • Low body weight
  • Low IQ
  • Poor coordination
  • Poor cognitive skills and memory
  • Smaller head size
  • Stunted growth

In general, babies with FASDs will require medical care and attention for their entire life. They may need extra help or may struggle with permanent disabilities that prevent them from enjoying life to the fullest. The effects can be permanent.

It’s important to note that FASDs will last a lifetime. There’s no cure for it. With that said, early intervention and treatments can improve a child’s development and prevent it from worsening. Babies who struggle with FASDs may need to take certain medications or may need to take special types of education therapy. Much like with addiction treatment, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach. Each child will need a different type of treatment.


As mentioned above, many disorders will fall under FASDs. There are many different types that can be defined by unique characteristics. To get a baby struggling with FASD the help he or she needs, doctors must first identify the type of FASD that he or she struggles with. The various types of FASDs include:

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which is also the most intense type of FASD. In extreme cases, babies that struggle with FAS may die. In the majority of cases, babies who struggle with FAS will have abnormal facial features and will also struggle with central nervous system (CNS) problems. They may have developmental disabilities, learning disabilities and more. They may struggle with poor cognitive skills, short attention spans and even bad memory.
  • Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD), which is a mild case of FASD. Babies with ARBD will exhibit developmental issues, like problems with their heart, kidney or bones.
  • Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND), which is a moderate type of FASD. Those who struggle with ARND typically have intellectual disabilities and behavioral issues. For example, they may have a hard time with impulse control.
  • Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (ND-PAE). Babies struggling with this type of FASD will usually struggle with cognitive and memory problems. They will have behavioral issues, and will be more prone to mood issues and tantrums.

The problems don’t end there. In general, babies who are exposed to alcohol as a fetus will develop significantly more health complications as they grow up.

Low Birth Weight

Another common issue that can arise from substance abuse during pregnancy is a low birth weight. Babies are considered to have a low birth weight if they weigh less than 5 pounds and 8 ounces, or 2,500 grams. As many as 8% of babies in the U.S. will struggle with a low birth weight when they’re born. This could be due to many different factors. Drug and alcohol abuse are two of them.

Babies with a low birth weight are at risk for more complications. Their body may not be able to support the baby’s developmental needs. As a result, these babies may have a more difficult time eating, fighting infections and gaining weight. Some of the most common problems associated with a low birth weight include:

  • Infections
  • Difficulties feeding and gaining weight
  • Difficulties maintaining a consistent body temperature
  • Respiratory difficulties often caused by immature lungs
  • Neurologic problems. Like intraventricular hemorrhage
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Babies with a low birth weight will usually need specialized care in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Doctors and nurses will need to monitor these babies until they gain enough weight to go home. Babies who weigh less than one pound will face a lot of problems. Their chances of survival are fairly slim.

Depending on the baby’s condition, he or she may need special treatment at the NICU. Some babies need temperature-controlled beds. Other babies may need special feedings. Doctors may stick a tube into their stomach or may request an intravenous line (IV) for the baby if he or she cannot suck.

Some babies may also need special medications or special therapies. It all depends on the drug that’s behind their low birth weight. Many babies with a low birth weight will also struggle with some other condition or disorder.

Miscarriage and Stillbirth

Alcohol and drug use are both risk factors that can lead to spontaneous abortion. This is defined as a fatal demise before the 20 weeks of gestation is complete. It’s also known as a miscarriage. Unfortunately, between 10% and 15% of all pregnancies will end in miscarriage. The spontaneous abortion can be due to many complications. It may not necessarily have to do with drug or alcohol abuse. It could be due to chromosome problems, infections and eating disorders.

With that said, studies have found that women who consume at least one alcoholic drink per daywill be more likely to have their pregnancy end in miscarriage. Those who consumed over three drinks a day saw a threefold increase in miscarriage and stillbirth risk. In short, those who drink more liquor will be more at risk.

These same risks are present for stillbirth. Women who drink more than 14 drinks per week are more likely to have a stillbirth. In fact, studies have shown that consuming more than 5 drinks per week will lead to a threefold increase.

These risks are also magnified by those who abuse drugs. Those who abuse more than one drug at a time will be most at risk.


Dealing with a miscarriage can be very stressful. Many mothers will feel a lot of grief over this. Some mothers may have difficulties moving forward from this traumatic event. It may completely change and shape the way that they see the world.

There are several different ways to cope with a miscarriage. They include:

  • Acknowledging the passing of the child. Mothers who miscarried should give themselves time to grieve. They should put everything else on hold, and grieve the life that they’ve lost.
  • Opening up to other people about their loss. Surprisingly, talk therapy can make a huge difference in the quality of one’s life. Open up to a loved one when you feel ready.
  • Practicing self-care. Many women who have miscarried will often wallow in grief. They may stop living for themselves and may no longer take part in once-pleasurable activities. This will only cause them to spiral further down into depression. Make sure that you practice self-care. You don’t need to doll yourself up, but you should still shower every day and eat.
  • Standing strong with your partner. Don’t let distance grow between you and your significant other. Tell him what’s going through your mind, and try to find a way to include him in your life still.
  • Giving yourself time to process the situation. Everyone deals with grief differently. Give yourself as much time as you need.
  • Going to therapy or getting counselling. Now is a good as time as any to seek professional help. You might not have the resources or the tools to deal with it yourself.

There are plenty of different ways that you can deal with a miscarriage. There’s no right or wrong way.


Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) describes a disorder that usually appears among babies who were exposed to opioids. Both illicit opioids, like heroin, and prescription opioids, like oxycodone can lead to NAS. Babies with NAS will have developed both a chemical and physical dependence to the opioids as well. As a result, the infant will begin to struggle with withdrawal symptoms after they’re born when there are no more opioids in their system.

Some of the most common NAS symptoms include:

  • Blotchy skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting

NAS can also lead to premature labor and small body size.

NAS withdrawal symptoms will usually begin to appear within 8 to 12 hours after birth. These withdrawal symptoms may take weeks to subside. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, some babies may need opioid and opiate detox treatment.

There was a fivefold increase in NAS between 2000 to 2012. Unfortunately, studies show that NAS rates continue to steadily climb year after year.

Placenta Abruption

Studies have found placental and umbilical cord changes in women who are addicted to drugs. This phenomenon happens when the placenta separates from the uterine wall before labor even happens. While this condition will rarely lead to the death of the baby, it can cause many developmental problems like:

  • Preterm labor
  • Low birth weight
  • Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR)

The risk of placenta abruption will depend on the type of drug being abused. Heroin abuse leads to an increased risk in placental changes. Studies also show that cocaine abuse may lead to the same changes.

The symptoms of placental abruption include abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding, back pain, uterine tenderness and uterine contractions. Placental abruption does not have to happen all at once. It can develop slowly.

The placental abruption can also cause a lot of problems for the mother as well. It can lead to shock due to blood loss, kidney failure and blood clotting problems. Some mothers may end up needing a blood transfusion.

Premature Labor and Birth

Babies who are born before the 37th week of pregnancy are considered premature. Pregnant women who abuse alcohol or drugs are more likely to go through premature labor and birth. While this situation will rarely lead to fatal consequences, it can lead to health complications and developmental issues like:

  • Difficulties breathing
  • Difficulties maintaining a normal body temperature
  • Underdeveloped organs

Premature babies will usually need intensive medical support at the hospital for weeks or for months. Many of them will have a difficult time, and may be under quite a bit of agony during the first few months of their lives.

In general, babies who were born before 34 weeks of pregnancy have the greatest risk of health problems. They may struggle with issues like cerebral palsy or learning disabilities. Preterm labor can only be diagnosed within pregnant women when there are changes in their cervix.

It’s important to point out that women with preterm labor may not necessarily experience preterm birth. In fact, studies show that only about 10% of women with preterm labor will actually give birth in the following week. To manage preterm labor, most doctors will prescribe medications. Common medications that are used to stop preterm labor include tocolytics, sulfate, corticosteroids and magnesium.

Some of these medications will speed up the development of the baby’s organs. Others will prevent or reduce the risk of health complications, like cerebral palsy.

Small head Circumference or Microcephaly

Many studies have shown that drug and alcohol abuse can lead to small head circumference, also known as microcephaly. This is when the infant’s head size is much smaller than normal for a baby its age and gender.

If the head isn’t large enough, it’s usually an indication of an underdeveloped brain. After all, the brain does not have enough space to develop and grow while the infant was in the womb.

Microcephaly is often linked with a high risk for seizures and severe developmental delays. The condition can lead to motor function impairment or underdevelopment of various organs in the body. Those with microcephaly will usually exhibit symptoms like:

  • Abnormal muscle tone
  • Poor weight gain and growth
  • Speech delays
  • Motor function impairment
  • Mild to severe learning disabilities

Many babies with microcephaly will also struggle with other health conditions, like facial deformities, vision and hearing problems and dwarfism.

There’s no cure for microcephaly. However, there are early intervention methods. The treatment options that are used will depend on the severity of the microcephaly. Some common services include speech, physical and occupational therapy. Babies who struggle with seizures may be given medications.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Maternal substance abuse can also lead to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Studies show that 5.83 of every 1,000 infants will experience SID if maternal drug abuse is involved. In comparison, the prevalence of SIDS is only 1.39 per 1,000 infants among fetus that were not exposed to any substances at all.

SIDS refers to a phenomenon where babies less than a year old would suddenly die. Autopsies performed on these infants would not be able to provide an explanation for the cause of death.

Mothers who abuse the following drugs were more likely to have babies that were at a higher risk for SIDS:

SIDS is also often referred to as crib death because the infants often die in their cribs. Recent studies have shown that SIDS might be associated with brain defects. These defects prevent the baby from breathing and from waking up from their sleep.

SIDS is most likely to occur when babies are between 1 and 4 months old. 90% of SIDS cases happen when the babies are still under 6 months old. In general, babies who pass their first birthday will no longer be at risk for SIDS.


The Effect of Various Drug Use on Prenatal Children

Substance abuse is a fairly common issue among many pregnant women. Depending on the type of substances used, different types of consequences may follow. Each substance will have a different effect on the fetus and the mother.

Both illicit drugs and prescription drugs are a cause for concern. Pregnant women who are currently taking prescribed medications should speak to their doctors about whether the medications may cause harm to their child. With that said, illegal drugs are much more dangerous. No one knows exactly what’s in them. Most street drugs are not pure and contain many buffers.

Let’s take a look at how various drugs can affect not only the prenatal child, but the pregnant mother as well.


There’s no excuse for drinking while pregnant. Scientists and doctors have long been aware of the risks involved with drinking while pregnant. This is the reason why all doctors will recommend for pregnant women to stop drinking for their entire pregnancy. All types of alcoholic beverages can be harmful to the fetus. It doesn’t matter whether you decide to grab a beer or whether you go for a cocktail. The alcohol can still travel from the bloodstream all the way to the fetus.

Unfortunately, even though science is aware of the consequences, 1 in 10 women will still continue to drink. Many of these women are addicted to alcohol, so they’ll binge drink. This means that they’ll drink more than 4 drinks on one occasion.

Those who continue to consume alcohol during their pregnancy will need to be aware that they’ll have a high-risk pregnancy. They’re prone to miscarriages. The fetus, however, will take on the brunt of the damages. The fetus will be more susceptible to developing fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). These disorders can lead to permanent disabilities.


Although most people would consider methamphetamine to be a scary and dangerous drug, 19,000 pregnant women will abuse meth while they’re pregnant. Meth is a highly dangerous drug. It contains toxic chemicals that can damage one’s DNA. Since it’s a street drug, no one knows exactly what’s inside each dose. Drug dealers may cut the methamphetamine with many other chemicals in order to turn a profit.

Pregnant women who abuse meth will have a lower body mass index measurement. Pregnancy, itself, is already a huge strain on the body. It uses up a lot of resources. With meth use, this drug will also place its own strain on the body. This causes the pregnant women to have a low body mass, which can lead to an increased risk of health complications. The pregnant mothers are much more likely to lose their baby. Also, since meth abuse and pregnancy both have a huge strain on the body, pregnant women who continue to use methamphetamine will generally need to stay at the hospital for a much longer time in order to recoup their strength.

Another risk that pregnant mothers take on is preterm labor and delivery. 29% of women who abuse meth cannot deliver naturally. They’ll need a C-section. They’re also more likely to struggle with eclampsia and high blood pressure. Both can lead to more serious complications. High blood pressure can cause strokes, heart problems and kidney problems. Eclampsia can damage the brain, kidneys and liver.

The babies will also be at risk for placental abruption. They tend to have low birth weights and may struggle with microcephaly.


Studies show that there’s an increase in “meth babies”. But, what are meth babies?

Babies who were exposed to methamphetamine while in the womb will tend to exhibit certain mental and physical abnormalities. There’s a good chance that they’ll have underdeveloped organs. Their heart and kidneys are most susceptible. They’re also more likely to die from fetal stroke, miscarriages and premature births.

Babies who do successfully grow up are going to experience a myriad of mental health problems. They’re also more susceptible to emotional problems and behavioral problems. For example, they may have poor fine motor skills and a lack of coordination.

As these babies grow into toddlers, they’re more likely to become hyperactive. They may also be more likely to have angry outbursts and temper tantrums.

Speak to an Addiction Specialist Now


Each year, over 750,000 pregnancies struggle with the consequences of cocaine abuse. Since cocaine is a powerful stimulant, it can actually force the uterus to contract. This can lead to premature labor and blood loss.

Pregnant women who abuse cocaine during their pregnancy are also more likely to struggle with maternal migraines and seizures. They may also be more susceptible to high-risk deliveries, as their placental lining may separate from their uterus. This premature membrane rupture can be dangerous for both the mother and the baby.

Other risks to the pregnant mother include high blood pressure, preterm labor and spontaneous miscarriages. They’re also more likely to have difficulties with labor and will spend more time at the hospital.

More women struggle with cocaine abuse than what studies show. Many women hesitate to report cocaine use because they’re afraid of the repercussions that may follow. Fear of these repercussions also prevent many pregnant women from getting the help that they need.


Cocaine abuse can also have some negative effects on the baby. Some studies have shown that babies born to mothers who abuse cocaine will often struggle with:

  • Lower birth weights
  • Smaller head circumferences
  • Behavioral problems
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Difficulties with self-control
  • Low cognitive performance
  • Memory problems

There’s still not enough research in this field. However, some studies have found that brain scans among babies exposed to cocaine and healthy babies are different.



As mentioned in one of the statistics above, marijuana is one of the most commonly abused drugs among pregnant women. While marijuana is technically from a plant, THC can have some weird effects on pregnant women and their baby. Like with alcohol, THC can pass through the placenta to the baby.

Studies show that pregnant women who abuse marijuana while pregnant are more likely to struggle with respiratory problems, memory problems and rapid heart rate. Marijuana use may also lead to the development of co-occurring disorders.

As for the babies, they’re more likely to struggle with premature birth, behavioral problems, development problems and a low birth weight.

Prescription Opioids

Many pregnant women will take prescription opioids and be under the misconception that these medications will not harm their baby. This is untrue. Prescription opioids can be just as strong as illicit opioids, and can be equally damaging.

22.8% of women enrolled in Medicaid in 2007 took prescription opioids.”

Popular prescription opioids that are often abused during pregnancy include methadone, codeine, hydrocodone and oxycodone. These prescription painkillers will treat differing levels of pain.

Unfortunately, prescription opioid use can lead to the development of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) among the babies. Fluctuating opioid levels can also lead to placenta function issues. The babies are likely to struggle with stunted growth. Fetal convulsions and fetal are also a possibility.

The mother may also be at risk of infections from shared needles. Common bloodborne diseases include HIV and HCV.

Some women may have a need for prescription opioids. They may be dealing with chronic or severe pain. In these situations, they’ll need to discuss the pros and cons of taking the prescription drug with a doctor. The doctor will decide whether the benefits of taking the drug outweigh the risks involved.


The effects of heroin is similar to the effects of prescription opioids. Heroin has a similar biological and chemical effect on the baby and the mother. The only difference is that heroin is a street drug, and it may be buffed with other chemical agents as well.

Heroin can also cause NAS among exposed babies. These babies may also be more at risk for birth defects, seizures, premature labor and poor intrauterine growth. There are some key differences between heroin and prescription opioids. With heroin, the withdrawal symptoms associated with NAS may be much longer lasting. NAS withdrawal symptoms can last for up to 6 months with heroin abuse. As a result, many of these babies will need an intense level of medical care and attention. They’ll usually be hospitalized for an extended period of time.

Pregnant mothers who abuse heroin during their pregnancy will also have a higher risk for a high-risk pregnancy. They’re more susceptible to conditions, like antepartum hemorrhaging, respiratory failure and pre-eclampsia. They’re also more likely to develop a co-occurring disorder.

Once again, those who abuse heroin will also need to be careful with sharing needles. If they do share needles, they may end up contracting a bloodborne disease, like HIV or HCV.

It’s important to note that the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting heroin can also cause undue stress on the baby. As a result, a pregnant woman who is abusing heroin will definitely need to seek help from an addiction treatment center. The professionals will slowly taper the patient off of the drug. They’ll also move the patient to a safer alternative in the meantime.


Many pregnant women may believe that it’s safe to take benzodiazepines and anti-anxiety medications when pregnant. After all, they may have taken these medications before they were pregnant. While these medications may not necessarily lead to fatal consequences, they do have a negative effect on the baby. These drugs won’t usually affect the mothers.

There’s a small chance that the babies may develop a cleft lip and palate. The risk of this is higher for fetuses that were exposed to benzodiazepines during the first trimester. It may be best for pregnant women to avoid benzodiazepines during these times.

The babies may also develop symptoms of toxicity. They may have a decreased muscle tone or struggle with respiratory problems. Some babies may also struggle with withdrawal symptoms. Common withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepine abuse include irritability, exhaustion, loss of appetite, difficulties sleeping and seizures.

Pregnant mothers who are taking benzodiazepines should consider discussing their concerns with a healthcare provider. Compare the pros and cons of taking this prescription medication. If the benefits of taking the drug outweigh the risks of drug abuse, continue to take it. In general, it’s best to stop taking benzodiazepines and anti-anxiety medications if possible when pregnant.


Surprisingly, many people don’t consider smoking as a form of drug abuse. Tobacco can lead to nicotine buildup in the placenta. In extreme cases, smoking can lead to the death of the baby. In moderate situations, smoking will lead to a plethora of health problems for the baby. It all depends on the amount that the pregnant mothers smoke.

Common issues that the babies may face include ectopic pregnancies, behavioural problems, an increased risk for addiction, low birth weights and stunted growths. Some babies may also struggle with learning problems for the rest of their life.

It’s best for pregnant mothers to try to quit smoking as much as possible. This will help them give birth to a healthier and happier baby. It’s important to note that some mothers may experience withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit smoking. In these situations, they should speak to their healthcare providers ahead of time to determine how they should approach the situation.

The withdrawal symptoms may also affect the baby. These symptoms may place some type of stress on the fetus.  In general, most doctors will recommend slowly tapering off of cigarettes to reduce the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms.


An Increased Risk of Co-Occurring Disorders

Substance abuse can lead to fluctuating neurochemical levels in the brain, which can put pregnant women more at risk of co-occurring disorders. This is when a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder (SUD) occurs at the same time.

These disorders require special treatment. Pregnant women who struggle with co-occurring disorders will need to seek dual diagnosis treatment. Their medications must be able to appropriately manage the symptoms of both the mental illness and the addiction.

Pregnant women who are looking for addiction treatment should be screened for co-occurring disorders. They’re some of the most likely candidates. Recent studies have discovered that women are also more vulnerable to mental illnesses and mental health disorders when pregnant. Let’s take a look at some of the most common mental health disorders that are associated with pregnancy.


Did you now that today’s young mothers are more likely to develop depression while they’re pregnant? A recent study found that up to 25% of young pregnant women struggle with depression. The exact cause behind this phenomenon is unknown.

Depression during pregnancy can lead to some indirect health risks for the fetus. For one, the mother may be more likely to have poor eating habits. They may also be more likely to skip prenatal care. Unfortunately, babies who are born to depressed mothers will often struggle with early developmental issues.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are also another common mental health disorder that often plagues pregnant mothers. Eating disorders can affect the baby’s development. Unfortunately, about 5% of pregnant women struggle with an eating disorder.

An eating disorder will mean different things for the mother and the baby. For the mother, an eating disorder can lead to high blood pressure and gestational diabetes, anemia, an increased risk of miscarriage and cardiac irregularities. For the baby, an eating disorder can result in malnutrition, abnormal birth weight, poor development, respiratory distress and premature birth.

Pregnant women struggling with an eating disorder will benefit greatly from counseling and from behavioral therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) can provide a lot of help in these situations.

It may be difficult to eat a nutritional and healthy meal at times. However, pregnant mothers need to be aware that they’re eating for two. Even if they don’t feel like eating healthy meals, they have to for the sake of their baby. This kind of determination can help many pregnant women manage their eating disorder.

Panic Disorder

Pregnant women who abuse drugs or alcohol may be more likely to develop panic disorders. These disorders can lead to high levels of anxiety, which may increase decreased blood flow to the baby. There’s limited research in this area, but some studies suggest that this could hinder the baby’s brain development.

There are many different ways to deal with panic disorders. Some rehab facilities may recommend that patients take medications. Others may recommend patients to try holistic treatment approaches that can help them relax. Yoga, Reiki and Tai Chi are all excellent options that can make a huge difference in one’s life. Behavioral therapies, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can also change one’s mindset and one’s thoughts.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a serious form of depression that may plague many new mothers. No one knows the exact mechanism behind this mental health condition. However, it’s vital that mothers who struggle with postpartum depression get the help that they need right away.

It’s important to be able to identify postpartum depression as soon as possible. This is a co-occurring disorder that must be dealt with swiftly. Common symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Feeling as if you don’t care for your baby or have any ties to it at all
  • Feeling extremely anxious or having panic attacks for seemingly no reason
  • Feeling hopelessness, extremely sad or having no control over your own life

Postpartum depression is not likely to go away on its own. You’re going to need professional help from a drug or alcohol rehab facility. Look for a treatment center that specializes in this area. Those who are affected may need special treatment plans or programs to help them work through the postpartum depression.


Many mothers confuse “baby blues” with postpartum depression. “Baby blues” is technically a mild form of postpartum depression. This type of depression will usually start about 1 to 3 days after birth, and will linger around for up to a few weeks. New mothers may not necessarily be depressed the entire time. Instead, they’ll experience erratic mood changes. They may feel happy one moment, but be crying the next.

“Baby blues” is a common phenomenon. It’ll affect up to 80% of new moms. This type of depression will disappear on its own. It’s usually not a big deal, and can be attributed to hormonal changes after the pregnancy. Never forget that giving birth and pregnancy are quite an impressive feat!

Postpartum depression, however, is an entirely different thing. It affects 13% of new mothers. This type of depression is much more serious. It’ll also last a lot longer. Many rehab centers may recommend that patients undergo specific types of counseling and behavioral therapy if they are also struggling with postpartum depression. These patients must first be able to regulate their emotional well being before they can deal with their addiction face-to-face.


Treatment Options and Programs for Pregnant Women

Treating women with a drug or alcohol addiction is fairly easy. The steps are similar to any typical addiction treatment plan. The pregnant mothers will first go through medical detox depending on the type of alcohol and drugs that they are addicted to.

Since they’re pregnant, they’re body will usually be much more vulnerable to minor changes. It’s important for the medical staff to be able to keep an eye on them at all times to make sure that both them and their baby are safe.

Pregnant women must seek a doctor’s care when detoxing from alcohol or drugs. Each patient will need an individualized treatment plan based on their level of drug abuse, their health and psychiatry history and the type of drugs that have been used.

In most cases, most doctors will recommend slowly tapering off of the drug slowly. This type of substance abuse treatment will prevent the body from going into shock or from destabilizing the pregnancy.

Each patient will also need to a special treatment plan. Treatment specialists at the rehab centers will draft a special itinerary for each patient. A comprehensive addiction treatment plan will also include:

  • Pregnancy education and counseling
  • Life skills classes and workshops
  • Parenting education
  • Family therapy and family programs
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Support groups like 12 step programs
  • Prenatal care
  • Behavioral therapies
  • Holistic treatment approaches
  • Aftercare planning

Each patient will need something different. It all depends on their situation. It’s vital that each addiction treatment center assess each pregnant women. A specialist should sit down and discuss concerns and other issues as well. Treatment for pregnant women will differ from one individual to another. There’s no set routine or plan.

Pregnant women should highly consider residential rehab programs. These rehab programs will provide them with a completely new environment where they can focus only on their recovery.

Gender-Specific Programs

Many drug and alcohol treatment facilities will recommend that pregnant mothers join a gender-specific rehab facility. There, they will be surrounded with other women and other pregnant ladies as well.

Pregnancy is a very intimate and vulnerable moment in a women’s life. Dealing with an addiction can compound the stresses of being pregnant. It’s crucial that the alcohol and drug treatment center is able to offer a comfortable environment for the mothers. They definitely do not need any extra stress in their life, as extra stress can lead to more pregnancy complications.

A gender-specific rehab facility will provide all of the amenities that pregnant mothers need. They’ll also be able to discuss gender-specific issues that may have led to their drug or alcohol addiction in the first place. Some of these issues may feel very sensitive and private. They may include topics like sexual assault, domestic violence or other forms of trauma.

Pregnant women may also be going through a lot of bodily changes. They may feel more comfortable in a gender-specific rehab facility. They may also feel like they have an easier time relating with the other patients there. This may help them open up and move forward with their addiction recovery journey. They’ll be able to be more honest with themselves, the staff and the counselors.


Legal Consequences

The legal stance for drug abuse or alcohol abuse during pregnancy will differ from one state to another. In America, 23 states and the District of Columbia currently  consider drug abuse during pregnancy to be a form of child abuse. 3 of these states consider drug abuse during pregnancy as grounds for civil commitment.

The District of Columbia and 24 states require doctors and other healthcare professionals to report suspected prenatal drug use. 8 states will require medical professionals to test for prenatal drug exposure if they suspect that drug use is in play.

With that said, the consequences for using drugs and alcohol isn’t too severe. Most states have created or funded drug treatment programs that are specifically for pregnant women. Those who are found to be abusing drugs and alcohol will need to be committed to these treatment programs. They’ll have to go through the entire addiction treatment program until they reach sobriety. Many states also give priority access to state-funded alcohol and drug rehab programs to pregnant women.

Since the legal consequences can vary quite significantly, you’ll need to speak with a lawyer to determine what happens next or where you stand. It’s important to note that most states will not fault pregnant women for getting addiction treatment help at all. In fact, they highly encourage it.

The End of Tennessee’s Fetal Assault Law

In April 2014, Tennessee passed its fetal assault law. This law allowed Tennessee to become one of the first states to consider giving birth to a child with prenatal exposure symptoms as a crime. This act was considered as an assault against the embryo or fetus. Around 100 women were charged under this new law.

Under this law, women who refused to seek addiction treatment could also be prosecuted. This is a huge issue for areas that severely lack alcohol and drug treatment facilities.

There was a huge national outcry. Amnesty International documented the injustice behind this law. It also researched the negative impact of this law. Amnesty International found that this law prevented pregnant women from seeking prenatal care. It also impeded those who abused drugs from seeking medical treatment.

Due to the negative impact of this legislature, the General Assembly chose not to extend the law. This effectively put an end to the fetal assault law by July 1, 2016.

A Look at Alabama’s Chemical Endangerment Law

Tennessee is not the only state to have enacted laws against substance abuse during pregnancy. Alabama has also made a stand with its chemical endangerment law. Passed in 2006, this law was originally intended to protect children from environments where they could be exposed to various substances. This law was originally intended to target the growing methamphetamine epidemic in America.

Over the years, the Alabama Supreme Court has used this law to target parents who are in possession of small amounts of drugs. It’s also used to target pregnant mothers. More women have been prosecuted under this law than men. A huge majority of these women are pregnant.

Those who are prosecuted under this law will usually have been drug tested without their knowledge. If not, their newborn children may have been drug tested without anyone’s knowledge.

The chemical exposure law is a class c felony. This means that a conviction can lead to some fairly harsh penalties. Pregnant women who are convicted under this law can face up to 10 years in prison. The child may not necessarily have to be harmed for the mother to be convicted.

In the event that the child is harmed, the prosecutors have a right to escalate the charge to an even higher level felony. This carries an even longer prison sentence upon conviction. The judge can determine what the sentencing will be for each case based on its circumstances.

From 2006 to 2015, 479 pregnant mothers have been prosecuted under this law. 89% of these women were unable to afford the cost of getting their own lawyers.


Should There Be Legal Consequences?

There’s quite a lot of debate surrounding whether there should be any legal consequences for drug abuse or alcohol abuse during pregnancy. So far, there hasn’t been any consensus.

While some people would argue that drug abuse or alcohol abuse when pregnant is also a form of child abuse, criminalizing drug or alcohol abuse will be met with resentment and other issues. Pregnant women will be much more hesitant to seek help if they feel that they would face repercussions for their actions.

Another interesting thing to consider is that addiction is not a choice, but a chronic mental health condition. Many people debate on the fairness of penalizing someone for a condition that they may not have any control over.


Resources on Pregnancy and Addiction

There are many resources available for pregnant women. Many of these resources offer not only online help, but also toll-free helplines as well. It’s easy to reach out to someone.

Some of the most popular resources for pregnancy and addiction include:

American Pregnancy Association

The American Pregnancy Association is one of the largest non-profit organizations out there that work towards increasing awareness of pregnancy needs. This organization promotes pregnancy wellness through education, advocacy and support. They also do a lot of community outreach to raise awareness as well.

This organization provides toll-free helplines, patient education materials and online help for Americans all across the nation. They deliver instant answers and material to women when they need it the most. The American Pregnancy Association believes that research into reproductive health is important. They support women by lobbying businesses, legislature and even insurance providers in America to provide better healthcare for women.

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood is one of America’s most trusted provider of reproductive healthcare. This organization recently reached its 100th year milestone in October 2016. This organization provides information and resources for women, men and young people all over the world.


Take a Look at Our Individualized Treatment Plans

Pregnant women struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD) should seek addiction treatment as soon as possible. Don’t deal with the addiction alone. You’re not likely to succeed. After all, you don’t have the recovery tools and the resources needed to get and stay sober.

Substance abuse treatment can help normalize brain chemistry levels and get pregnant women back on the right track. They can help them stay on top of their prenatal care.

There are many addiction treatment centers in America that offer treatment for pregnant women with a drug or alcohol abuse problem. Here, at Amethyst Recovery Center, we also have the resources that you may need. Our treatment specialists can help you regardless of the addiction you have. We have a lot of experience in dealing with all types of addictions.

24/7 Help for Drug & Alcohol Use

If you or someone you love is suffering from the addiction, there is no reason to delay. Start working on a solution today. Our phones are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our staff are trained to deal with drug and alcohol problems of any kind, and will recommend the right treatment for you based on your situation. Call now!

Call Us Now

Latest from the Blog

Licensed & Accredited Recovery Program

Amethyst Recovery Center is one of the top addiction treatment facilities in the country. We are focused on providing the highest standard of substance abuse treatment. We continue to meet the rigorous standards that are set forth by the Joint Commission (JCAHO), and have received their Gold Seal accreditation. We are also proud members of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP).

Contact Amethyst

Call us 24 hours a day:

(855) 550-0750


If you do not wish to call, please fill out the form below to have one of our specialists reach out to you. Your information is always 100% confidential and secure.