The Risks of Substance Use During Pregnancy: What Can Happen

The dangers associated with substance use during pregnancy cannot be overstated, and any woman who may feel vulnerable or susceptible to substance use during this time should be given adequate resources and treatment, with zero judgment. Both mother and child’s health remain top priority, and for that reason it’s good to be aware of potential health issues and effects of substance use during pregnancy.  Women must be empowered to choose the treatment option best for them and their child.

Effects of Substance Use During Pregnancy

Many symptoms depend on the dosage and intake levels of substances. Some potential consequences and effects of substance use during pregnancy include:

  • Low birth weight
  • Birth defects
  • Abnormal feeding
  • Learning disabilities
  • Heart problems
  • Joint problems
  • Growth during infancy
  • Poor coordination
  • Preterm birth

Opioid usage during pregnancy has also been a growing cause for concern. These disorders during pregnancy can cause problems for both mother and child, including preterm birth, stillbirth, maternal mortality, prenatal drug exposure, and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Side effects associated with NAS include complications such as:

  • Excessive crying
  • Tremors and irritability
  • Poor sleep
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Sweating and fevers
  • Seizures

Facts About Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Alcohol use during pregnancy can also cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Unfortunately, alcohol does pass easily from a mother’s bloodstream into her developing baby’s blood, and this can interfere with the development of the brain and other critical organs, structures, and physiological systems.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) define a broad range of effects that are caused by prenatal exposure. Some FASD-related problems include:

  • Learning and remembering
  • Following directions
  • Focusing and shifting attention
  • Controlling emotions
  • Communicating and socializing
  • Performing daily life skills

Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD)

ARBD includes medical conditions linked to prenatal alcohol exposure such as heart, kidney, bone problems and other malformations. Individuals with ARBD also have difficulty seeing and hearing, as well as reduced immune function. 

Other substance-related birth defects include:

  • Hearing problems and/or hearing loss
  • Breathing issues or persistent pulmonary hypertension
  • Ear malformations
  • Abnormal facial features, such as smooth ridge between upper lip and nose
  • Premature birth
  • Small height
  • Small head size
  • Brain damage

The Keys to Avoiding Substance Use During Pregnancy

Substance use disorder is incredibly difficult to overcome and treatment should be the #1 priority, whether you’re an expectant mother or not. Knowing what options and resources are available can alleviate many of the stressors that arise during this important time, and can hopefully give women a real chance to find the necessary, supportive, and compassionate care they need. 

Retreat Behavioral Health is a respected provider of behavioral and mental health services for individuals with substance use disorder. Through our comprehensive substance use treatment programs, we have successfully helped pregnant women overcome such challenges. 

We are always accepting pregnant women at our Pennsylvania, Florida, and Connecticut treatment centers, and encourage and greatly appreciate any women taking the step towards a healthier life. Admissions take place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and ground transportation is available both to and from our facilities. For more information, please contact us to learn about our admissions and recovery process for pregnant women and how to receive help for yourself or a loved one.