Confronting Addiction During Pregnancy

woman holding pregnancy test

There are a lot of resources on the internet, in books, and from the medical community on the dangers of drug and alcohol use during pregnancy. However, there is not very much quality information on what you should do if you have a problem with alcohol or drugs and are pregnant. The simple answer is you need to quit. With all the treatment programs available: AA, treatment facilities, therapy, self-control, etc., many see the answer as straightforward.

However, some do not believe they are really an addict or alcoholic. They may convince themselves that they don't drink or use very much or that often. The truth, if you are not capable of quitting during a time in your life when it is most essential that you do not drink or use, you are an addict. If you were not addicted, quitting during pregnancy would not be difficult. Many women falsely believe that an occasional drink or drug use is not really harmful. They may minimize their problem and rationalize what they are doing. They may say things like "well, when my mother was pregnant she drank/smoke, and I turned out fine."

sad woman thinking

Sometimes a woman may convince herself that she is done, and it won't happen again. Perhaps she has used during the first month, but she will tell herself, "I will get help if I do this again." With the next time, the same rationale is repeated in her mind, each time thinking it is the last.

Addiction is a disease that can make people feel shame. Addicts come in all forms. People with addiction can hide their disease very well. Their friends and family may not even realize that they have a problem. Talking to a health professional about this may be something they are too afraid to do. They may be afraid to talk to a professional for fear of having an investigation by Child Protective Services.

Marijuana supporters put out a lot of false information about the risks to an unborn child. This information minimizes the dangers, even going as far as to say babies born to marijuana users are less fussy and more content. People may choose to believe this misinformation in order to avoid facing their addiction.

Risks of Using Drugs and Alcohol During Pregnancy

Smoking: Babies are more likely to be born preterm and with low birth weight.

Alcohol: Alcohol can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Babies born with FAS may have symptoms of alcohol withdrawal shortly after birth. They often have a small head, small eyes, a wide flat nose, and a small jaw. Children with FAS may have growth problems, diminished mental capacity, and emotional problems.

group therapy

Marijuana: Marijuana can cause preterm birth, low birth weight, and some studies say it can cause attention problems in children.

Cocaine: Babies born to cocaine users often go through withdrawal symptoms after birth. Fetal growth may be retarded, there is a greater risk of premature labor, and heightened possibility of abruption of the placenta. Babies often have low birth weight, may have feeding problems, and are at greater risk of SIDS. Children of cocaine-addicted mothers may have emotional problems, short attention span, and learning disabilities.

Heroin and other narcotics: The mother is at a greater risk of having preterm labor and having a baby with low birth weight. Babies of heroin-addicted moms may have breathing difficulties, hypoglycemia, and intracranial hemorrhage. They also will go through withdrawal after birth.

If You Need Help

If you think that you have a problem, there are places to get help. Please do not wait. One of the best places to get help is at Alcoholics Anonymous,, or you can look for support groups in your area. Someone there will gladly help you find meeting locations and someone to talk to. Resources available include NIDA, March of Dimes, and the American Council for Drug Education.