Drug Abuse in Pregnancy and Effects on the Newborn – What Are the Dangers?

Women who are considering getting pregnant are always advised to avoid any substance abuse. Fetal development can be hindered through the use of substances such as cocaine, heroin, and alcohol among others. The dangers of drug abuse in pregnancy and effects on the newborn can be many, including neonatal abstinence syndrome and neonatal death.

The risks of drug abuse in pregnancy and effects on the newborn will be discussed in this article.

Drug Use during Pregnancy Statistics

The drug use during pregnancy statistics shows a clear connection between problems with the newborn and substance abuse during pregnancy. According to a study carried out in 2008, 21 percent of women who suffer from an addiction had premature deliveries when compared to the usual 6 percent chance. Furthermore, of the sample size, 49% of the women had hepatitis C – a common disease among heroin addicts.

Additional complications included neonatal deaths, low birth weight and congenital anomalies (three times as high compared to normal births) and neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Opioid Abuse and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

One of the biggest risks of drug abuse in pregnancy and effects on the newborn is neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). It is the term used to describe the many issues that a newborn that is exposed to opioids such as prescription pain relievers or heroin during pregnancy. Opioids are highly addictive and when a mother uses the substance while pregnant, it passes through the placenta to the baby. The baby becomes addicted to the opioid as the mother does. If the use of the substance stops close to the birth of the child, the baby will be born with the common opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Furthermore, a low birth weight, breathing problems, hypoglycemia and intracranial hemorrhaging are also common problems if opioids are abused during pregnancy.

Effects of Cocaine on the Newborn

The dangers of drug abuse in pregnancy and effects on the newborn vary depending on the type of substance abused. Use of cocaine can lead to miscarriage in the earlier months of pregnancy while placental abruption is likely if used later in the pregnancy. Birth defects may also be common.

Methamphetamine and Pregnancy

Meth abuse during pregnancy has many of the same problems seen in cocaine abuse while pregnant. Low birth weight due to lack of oxygen is common as well as premature labor, placental abruption, and miscarriage.

Rehab for Pregnant Mothers

Not all pregnancies happen by choice. If you or a loved one has fallen pregnant while still struggling with a substance abuse problem, rehab for pregnant mothers is the best option. A pregnant mother has specific needs during their treatment. In some cases, depending on what term the pregnancy is in, drug use cannot be abruptly stopped in order to protect the child. Certain periods of pregnancy are more favorable than others for those trying to stop drug abuse.

At a rehab facility, they are able to take the situation into account when structuring and planning an addict’s treatment program. Not only can the mother be assisted with her addiction during pregnancy, but their addiction treatment can continue after birth to ensure that relapse doesn’t occur.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.