Unfortunately today there are so many teens and young adults using and abusing drugs and alcohol before and during pregnancy and they're not only putting themselves at risk, they're putting their unborn child at risk. We can't get enough information out there to educate people letting them know just how serious this is. Not only are these babies suffering while in the womb, they're suffering after their born. The effects of drugs and alcohol can affect the child throughout their life and it's sad that people don't understand that.
I can't stress how important it is to the mother and her unborn child to seek help and be honest with your physician. I understand how hard that would have to be but you have a choice, the unborn child doesn't. There are a lot of women that have used substances during their pregnancy and say 'my baby was born healthy and ok'. I hope they can still say that throughout the child's life because there's no way to know if their child will have problems with learning, memory, attention, processing information, and if their motor skills have been affected.
There is no way of knowing the full extent of effects prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol can cause but we do know that these children are affected one way or another. There is so much we don't know yet as far as substance abuse and addiction during pregnancy is concerned but what we do know is serious.
We do know that the earlier the mother seeks help the safer it is for her unborn child. We do know how important prenatal care is and how crucial it is that the mother's physician be aware of the substance use as early as possible, this means in the beginning of pregnancy not mid-term, just before delivery or right after.
We do know that if any substance whether it's illegal drugs, legal drugs and medications, or alcohol has been used frequently, heavily or chronically that it's important to seek medical advice as soon as possible. Stopping cold turkey on your own is not only next to impossible but dangerous to the mother and unborn child.
We do know that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a miscarriage, still-birth, and FASD which is fetal alcohol spectrum disorders which can be very serious.
We do know that prenatal cocaine exposure is associated with premature birth, low birth weight, developmental difficulties like behavior, learning and attention problems.
We do know that exposure to methamphetamine can restrict the growth of the fetus and affect their movement.
There are other health risks we do know about specific drugs and substances used during pregnancy and plenty we don't know yet. What makes matters worse is that a lot of people abuse more than one substance. They combine drugs or alcohol before and/or during pregnancy and not only does it compound the risks to the fetus, it's hard to know for sure what drug caused the symptoms to the unborn child. Finding specific risks through research isn't that easy partially because of combined drug use and dishonesty.
I personally believe this, if substance use, abuse and addiction are dangerous for the mother they have to be equally if not more so dangerous to a developing fetus and unborn infant. If there are long term serious effects to a mother who has used, abused or been addicted to a substance, a fetus that's been exposed to substances can suffer long term affects also.
There are 4 things a woman can do for her unborn child during this time, seek medical help and advice immediately, be completely and totally honest about your substance use, listen and follow the advice from their physician and stay away from people and places that are associated with substance use.
There are support groups in most areas that will be extremely beneficial during this time. You will find support, knowledge and people who understand what you're going through at Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous because you're not the only one going through this. Other support groups that may be in your area include Cocaine Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, Pills Anonymous, Heroin Anonymous and SMART Recovery.
Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment
Because we're all different we need to find what works best for us especially during this time. Some people may need a substance abuse program that offers an outpatient setting. Many outpatient treatment centers offer counseling and therapy which is very helpful when you stop using drugs or alcohol. You will receive knowledge, support, guidance, and skills to help you make changes in other areas of your life that may have an effect on your recovery.
Residential Treatment for Substance Abuse
Inpatient or Residential Treatment is an option for individuals in need of a more intense form of treatment and therapy. Treatment programs are available for expectant mothers that need to be away from their normal surroundings, have a more one on one approach, and receive round the clock care.
So many teens and young people listen to their friends and hope everything will be ok and don't reach out for help. They keep the fear of their substance use to themselves and are afraid to let their parents know they're pregnant let alone use drugs. I promise you this only makes matters worse. You may think at the time 'things can't get any worse but they can and they do.
We all make poor choices in life and have done things we wish later we hadn't, yesterday is over and what's important is what you do today. Just remember that there is no way of knowing the full extent substance abuse has on the child during prenatal drug exposure but it can result in premature birth, miscarriage, low birth weight, behavioral problems and cognitive problems.
If you or someone you know has a problem with drugs or alcohol reach out for help before getting pregnant but if you are pregnant, do the right thing for your unborn child and talk to your parents if you can, seek help, be honest, follow the professional advice you receive and keep yourself and your unborn child as far away from substance use as you can. If you're not sure who to talk to or what to do, call 1-800-559-9503 and speak to a counselor for advice, they're available 24 hours a day and want to help.