Women in our society have a unique set of stress and pressure in their everyday lives. Sprinkle in some addiction problems, and you’ve got quite the cocktail of strain. Add in a pregnancy before, during or after an addiction problem and you’ve got a dangerous mixture. Some women are in need of an alcohol and drug detox and are too fearful to admit it. Some do not have the information they need to find an alcohol and drug detox to suit their specific situation and distinct set of needs.
It is hardly a surprise that women who are pregnant and addicted face more scrutiny that most subsets of people who struggle with addiction. But, they may find themselves in a situation where they need alcohol and drug detox just like any other woman. One’s mental image of a pregnant woman is one that is perfect and protective of their unborn child, always taking the necessary prenatal vitamins and printing sonogram pictures to share the progress of growth with their friends and family.
It is estimated that 2.7 million women use alcohol or drugs. Many are pregnant. It is difficult to estimate exactly how many of those women that use alcohol or drugs are pregnant but a very high percent of those women are of childbearing age. If a woman has an unexpected pregnancy in the midst of her drug or alcohol addiction, the risks to the fetus are staggering. Some drugs can cause a baby to be born too small or too soon. The baby can be born addicted and suffer withdrawal symptoms at birth not to mention the baby may have birth defects or learning and behavioral problems.
Because many pregnant women who use illicit drugs may additionally use alcohol and tobacco, which also pose risks to a fetus, it often is difficult to determine which health problems are caused by a specific illicit drug. It is also important to recognize that many illicit drugs may be prepared with impurities that can also be harmful to a pregnancy.
Women who are pregnant and addicted do not care any less for their child, they simply face a much more challenging pregnancy. Addiction is widely accepted and described as a disease. That disease does not simply disappear if a woman becomes pregnant. However, it is important to make alcohol and drug detox readily available to these women because a pregnancy can be the perfect catalyst for change. Not only is alcohol and drug detox most necessary during a pregnancy but also a woman can be most motivated to permanently stop her unhealthy behaviors, typical of drug and alcohol use, when presented with the miracle of motherhood.
Another huge obstacle for women facing alcohol and drug detox is the possibility of being criminally charged with everything from child abuse to delivery of drugs to a minor via the umbilical cord and/or breast milk. Or in the case of a stillbirth, the woman may be charged with homicide. The sooner the woman can be admitted to an alcohol and drug detox, the better chance the fetus will be born a healthy baby and be able to be raised by his/her mother. So many women are afraid to admit that they have used alcohol or drugs during their pregnancy for fear that their child will be taken away from them, that they dismiss any possibility of alcohol and drug detox.
Dr. Harolyn Belcher, director of research at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Family Center, said it best with: “rather than using funds on punitive incarceration approaches for individuals with drug dependence, resources should be used to provide these individuals and their children access to comprehensive evidence-based supportive treatment services.
It is not too late to go to an alcohol and drug detox if you’re pregnant; in fact, that is the perfect time to go to an alcohol and drug detox.