What Are the Risks of Addiction During Pregnancy?
As a disease, addiction during pregnancy requires medical treatment. Addicted women sometimes find themselves scared for their unborn baby and unable to stop using. When struggling with addiction during pregnancy, the outcome could be dangerous for both the mother and unborn baby.
Currently, there are no states that mandatorily drug test infants upon birth. However, some states will drug test if certain red flags are present in the parents or if the newborn baby exhibits unexplainable signs of withdrawal or distress.
Testing newborns for drugs at birth is very controversial. However, if signs of fetal drug exposure are present or the hospital decides to test your infant for drugs, your baby may be taken away. Remember that this decision is based solely on the type of drug detected in the newborn’s system.
If you are struggling with addiction during pregnancy, call (888) 906-0952 to ask a rehab specialist about drug and alcohol treatment while pregnant.
The Problems Associated With Drug Use During Pregnancy
Generally, people who misuse substances can suffer from long-term effects, especially from hard drugs like heroin, fentanyl, or meth. Similarly, expectant mothers misusing substances can develop several of health complications that can affect both mother and baby.
Furthermore, some health issues can prevent someone from becoming pregnant or prevent someone from coming into a full-term pregnancy.
These problems can include:
- Having difficulty getting pregnant or suffering from infertility.
- Issues found with the placenta.
- Preterm labor: when the baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
- Miscarriage: when the baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- Stillbirth: when the baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Furthermore, taking drugs during pregnancy can cause the following complications:
- Premature birth: when the baby is born too early, typically before 37 weeks of pregnancy
- Low birth weight: when the baby is less than 5 pounds 8 ounces
- Smaller than average head size
- Congenital disabilities: when the baby is born with health conditions
- Infections such as hepatitis C and HIV
- Born experiencing withdrawal symptoms
Children that have mothers who used during pregnancy can also suffer from problems later in life, including:
- Learning problems
- Behavioral problems
- Slower than normal growth
- SIDS, also known as sudden infant death syndrome
What Can Happen to My Pregnancy if I Use Drugs?
Using illicit drugs during pregnancy puts unborn children and their mothers at risk for several health concerns.
First, it increases the mother’s risk of:
- blood and heart infections
- skin infections
- and other infectious diseases.
Secondly, expectant addicted mothers risk developing heart infections, abscesses, and more using intravenous drugs.
Medical professionals seek to protect mothers and newborn babies because of these adverse health effects on young infants.
Do All Drugs Affect Unborn Babies the Same Way?
When women use drugs during pregnancy, they go directly into the shared bloodstream between mother and unborn baby. So if the mother is dependent, there’s a high possibility that the unborn baby becomes dependent on the drugs the mother is using.
However, different drugs have different effects and consequences on the unborn baby’s health.
Which Drugs Are the Worst for Unborn Babies?
Each type of drug presents it’s own unique risks and potential side effects to unborn babies.
Heroin, fentanyl, and other opiates can cause severe withdrawal in the baby. However, the magnitude of opiate withdrawal symptoms is dependent on the amount of drug the most is regularly consuming.
Symptoms can last for weeks; these babies are also at a higher risk for apnea, where they stop breathing.
Drugs such as Adderall and other stimulants are direct causes of miscarriage and preterm birth. In addition, the newborns exposed to these drugs during pregnancy often exhibit withdrawal, jitteriness, trouble feeding, and trouble sleeping.
Moreover, meth use while pregnant is very concerning and scary because meth is challenging to stop using. Mothers concerned if their baby will be taken away for meth use need to seek help immediately.
Later in life, these babies can also suffer from tremors and muscle tone complications. In addition, these babies are also at higher risk of dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Cocaine use during pregnancy can lead to possible miscarriage, preterm birth, premature detachment of the placenta, high blood pressure, and stillbirth. In addition, these newborns exposed to cocaine are also likely to be born at low birth weight, and the risk for SIDS increases substantially.
In addition, the effects of cocaine on the baby may include slow growth, hyperactivity, behavioral problems, and learning (developmental) problems.
Is There Any Help for Addiction During Pregnancy?
If women can seek medical help and detox, if necessary, in her first trimester, she dramatically increase her chances of having a healthy baby.
If a pregnant woman is addicted to opioids, it is usually recommended for her to go on Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), where she may receive regular doses of methadone or suboxone.
If. you’re wondering if they’ll take your baby away from you for heroin use, the answer is that it’s possible, and the chances are high, because of the potential damage that it can cause your baby.
What Do I Do if My Baby Tests Positive for Drugs at the Hospital?
Despite the joyous event of a newborn, it might feel like it’s the end of the world if a baby is born with drugs in their system.
However, when confronted by hospital staff or social workers, how the mother behaves will affect how the situation will go.
For drugs like marijuana, many states do not call child protective services.
However, for other illicit or non-prescribed drugs, the hospital medical providers will report the mother to the state child protective services agency (CPS).
Drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl are always reported to CPS.
Once a baby tests positive, the best step to take is to be honest. A mother must show willingness that she is open to getting help.
A child born with drugs in their system is a big deal, but mothers who are honest with their medical providers and social workers can get support they need to stop using and to keep their child out of the arms of the state.
What Do I Do if a Social Worker Shows Up at the Hospital?
The thought of a social worker approaching you after giving birth is scary. However, a social worker should be treated with respect.
If you’ve tested positive, it’s best to take responsibility. When you take responsibility the social worker will likely provide you with options to get addiction treatment so that you can keep custody of your new baby and in some cases, other children.
Child protective service’s number one goal is reunification and normally, parents are given a chance to raise the child unless they have an ongoing history of child neglect, abuse, or drug use.
In an ideal world, the caseworker assigned to a mother’s case is not an enemy but an ally. Their job is to do what is possible to help the mother become healthy to provide a safe and loving home for their child.
That is not to say that you shouldn’t act wisely when it comes to dealing with your case worker. Document every interaction that you’ve had with your caseworker including date and time.
Drug Use or Addiction During Pregnancy Laws by State
Many women have been accused of child abuse, among other crimes, due to their newborns being tested positive for controlled substances.
Laws on drug testing mothers and their newborns vary from state to state; however, the risk of testing positive for illicit drugs makes using extremely high risk.
In some places, mothers may lose their babies or be subject to arrest.
The states that consider drug use during a pregnancy a crime are:
- South Carolina
Furthermore, 18 states have laws that say the mother can be charged with child abuse for using drugs while pregnant.
- South Dakota
- Rhode Island
Tennessee is the only state with an actual statute that makes it a crime to use drugs while pregnant.
In Alabama and South Carolina, the prosecution of pregnant women who use drugs and new mothers is likely.
The charges can range from child endangerment to chemical endangerment.
Since 1973, at least 45 states have attempted to charge women for drug use during pregnancy.
Exposing an unborn child to illicit drugs is not looked upon favorably because of the significant harm potential to the child.
The states where women have not been charged for drug use while pregnant are:
- Rhode Island
States with Involuntary Commitment and Detainment for Addiction During Pregnancy
Some states consider drug use during pregnancy grounds for civil commitment. Women who use drugs while pregnant can be involuntarily committed to a drug and alcohol treatment program.
Authorities can send women to a rehab treatment center without their consent. Those states are:
- South Dakota
In Wisconsin, they can force the mother into a treatment center against her wishes and have the legal right to detain the expectant mother until she gives birth. The state also provides the unborn child a lawyer whose duties are to advocate for the child.
If addicted expectant mothers do not recover, they can lose child custody quickly after birth.
States with Mandatory Reporting for Addiction During Pregnancy
Fifteen states require mandatory reporting by doctors and healthcare workers when they suspect a pregnant woman is addicted to illicit drugs and used during pregnancy.
Those states are:
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
In these states, medical professionals are not required to have proof of these allegations. However, they are allowed to do testing to prove that suspicion.
The states that are required to do a drug test if the healthcare worker is suspicious are the following:
- North Dakota
I’m Struggling with Addiction During Pregnancy; What Do I Do?
Here is an action plan to get help if you’re pregnant and addicted.
- DO NOT put off getting help for your drug use. Commit to getting help for the well-being of yourself and your baby.
- Seek treatment, whether detox, medication-assisted treatment, inpatient rehab, or outpatient rehab programs that can accept pregnant women. If you’re ready to talk about your situation, call us at (888)906-0952 and let us help connect you with help.
- You must fully cooperate if CPS, DSS, or DES is involved. In many cases, these agencies can help you with treatment, financial assistance, and other resources for yourself and your parent.
- Work a complete recovery program and look ahead to brighter days with you and your child.
There is Always Hope for Addiction During Pregnancy
No matter a person’s situation, hope and help are always available. But, overall, the bottom line is the mother’s and child’s health.
Local authorities do not want to take babies from their homes but rather help and heal addicted families.
Addiction during pregnancy is a disease, and both persons deserve treatment and healthy life.
 Guidelines for Identifying Substance-Exposed Newborns (az.gov)
 A national survey of state maternal and newborn drug testing and reporting policies. – PMC (nih.gov)
 Can I Detox Safely While Pregnant? [Guide] – ABTRS
 Pregnant and Addicted to Opioids [Steps to Take] – Recover Today (abtrs.com)
 Addiction Treatment [Rehab] Get Help Now – Recover Today (abtrs.com)