I’m pregnant and a heroin addict; what about the baby?

I’m pregnant and addicted to drugs or alcohol. What can I do?

What are my options if I’m pregnant and addicted?

If you’re asking these questions, you have likely found yourself in an incredibly difficult situation. An unexpected pregnancy can be overwhelming on its own but, when you’re simultaneously battling addiction, your circumstances can seem impossible.

Whatever your situation, remember — there is help out there for you and your unborn baby.

First, know that you are not alone. The CDC reported that 1 in 33 pregnant women reported binge drinking in 2013 and, in the same year, TEDS reported that about 4 percent of pregnant women between the ages of 14 and 44 entered substance abuse treatment while they were pregnant.

Being pregnant and addicted is a serious situation to be in. Below, you’ll find some resources and information to help you get the assistance you need.

How Substance Abuse Can Affect Your Developing Baby

Addiction to any substance is dangerous for the user. When you are pregnant and addicted to drugs or alcohol, every harmful decision you make will affect your unborn baby, too.

There is a reason that pregnant woman are advised to abstain from the use of harmful drugs and alcohol during their pregnancy. Even the smallest amounts of these substances can do irreparable damage to a developing baby. Everything that a pregnant woman ingests into her body is delivered to her baby through the placenta, and any drugs and alcohol delivered via that bloodstream can interrupt the exchange of necessary nutrients and the elimination of waste materials.

If you drink alcohol during your pregnancy, you will be at risk for:

  • Being almost 50 percent more likely to have a miscarriage
  • Giving birth to a baby with low birth weight or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
  • Stillbirth during delivery

If you use illicit drugs (like cocaine, methamphetamines, opiates, etc.) during your pregnancy, you will be at risk for:

  • Pregnancy complications, like placental abruption, premature labor and miscarriage
  • Communicable diseases through hypodermic needle use
  • Delivering a child with fetal growth restriction, small head circumference, learning disabilities, developmental issues, birth defects, and more

If you are pregnant and addicted to drugs or alcohol, there is a high likelihood that your baby will be born addicted to the same substances you are. Therefore, your baby will need to go through withdrawal symptoms after birth. These dangerous symptoms can include:

  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Muscle spasms
  • Feeding difficulties
  • Vomiting
  • Sleeping problem
  • Rapid breathing

Babies born to addicts also have a higher risk of premature death from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

3 Ways You Can Get Help

Many women who are pregnant and addicted understand the situation they are putting their unborn baby in. However, not all of them seek out help to combat their addiction and give their baby a healthy start at life.

If you are in this situation, you may be unwilling to seek out assistance, too. You may be worried that you will face legal repercussions for your substance abuse, that your baby will be taken away from you, and that you will be judged or criticized by those who see your addiction as a lifestyle choice instead of a disease.

However, there are compassionate medical professionals and treatment facilities that can provide the help you need. They will help you recover from your addiction in a way that brings the least harm to you and your unborn child. They will also respect your rights as an expectant mother every step of the way.

Please seek out professional help rather than try to solve your addiction on your own. Quitting cold turkey is dangerous to both you and your unborn child.

If you are pregnant and addicted to pain pills, other drugs or alcohol, please consider these options to get the help you and your baby need:

1. Consider Placing Your Child for Adoption.

If you want to give your child a life you cannot provide at this time, you may consider placing them for adoption. Adoption agencies often work with women who are pregnant and addicted but want the best for their child. Certain agencies will not drug screen you; they will trust you to self-disclose any substance abuse issues you have. Their adoption counselors can also help you receive the support you need, whether that’s financial, emotional, or medical. You may even be able to enter a treatment program with the agency’s support during your pregnancy.

There are always families who are willing to adopt children born to those who are pregnant and addicted to drugs or alcohol. You can even meet these families and share an open adoption relationship after placement. Substance abuse does not disqualify you from choosing adoption, and adoption agencies will not judge or criticize you for your personal situation.

2. Reach Out to Trusted Friends and Family Members.

If you are pregnant and addicted to dangerous substances, you may have loved ones who will support you through your pregnancy and help you get the assistance you need. A trusted friend or family member can provide a safe, stable place to spend the rest of your pregnancy and can help you decide what to do next. If needed, this person may take custody of your child if you choose to place them for adoption or enter into a treatment program after the baby’s birth.

If you choose this path, make sure you can trust your loved one to support you throughout your journey — including all the ups and downs of recovering from addiction. An unsupportive loved one can cause more harm than good during this time.

3. Find a Treatment Center or Halfway House.

The journey toward rehabilitation can be extremely difficult on your own. If you are pregnant and addicted to drugs or alcohol, there are treatment centers available to you.

You may consider reaching out to a maternity home, where you can safely spend the rest of your pregnancy among other pregnant women and young mothers. There are also many medically safe detox centers around the country for women in your situation. At these organizations, you’ll find support for women in your situation from licensed professionals. They will guide you through your rehabilitation process and support you through the rest of your pregnancy, whether you choose to place your baby for adoption or raise them after completing treatment. Addicted.com maintains a national database of halfway houses and treatment centers for women in your situation.

If you are pregnant and addicted, know that there is help available to you. By reaching out to professionals, you will take the first step to protecting your and your baby’s health and ensuring a better future for you both moving forward.