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Addiction, Rehab and Pregnancy

According to the March of Dimes, nearly 4 percent of pregnant women in the United States use illicit drugs. Other women abuse alcohol during their pregnancies. While you may never have thought you’d be a part of this statistic, it’s possible that your addiction has grown so strong that you find it impossible to stop using, even though you’re pregnant. If so, there’s reason to be hopeful. There are several effective treatments that can help you, and your baby, overcome addiction.

Risks to Baby

Using illicit drugs during pregnancy can cause serious health problems for your baby, including:

Medication Management

Addictions to opiates like heroin can be difficult to overcome without the help of medications. The drugs cause physical changes in the way the brain functions and processes information, and those changes can cause intense cravings and physical discomfort when you try to quit. If you’re using during pregnancy, your baby may also experience withdrawal when you stop taking drugs. Medications such as methadone and buprenorphine are designed to ease this discomfort, and they are often considered safe to use during pregnancy. In fact, according to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, babies born to addicted mothers who are treated with these medications fare better when compared to babies born to addicted mothers who got no treatment. Your doctor can help you decide if you’ll need these medications during your recovery process.

Other Therapies

Medications aren’t the only method that can be used to treat an addiction. Counseling sessions can be particularly helpful for you. Here, you’ll learn more about what caused the addiction to form in the first place, and you’ll be given an opportunity to talk about your pregnancy and your hopes and dreams for your baby.

Some therapists use a form of therapy known as contingency management with their pregnant patients. There are several different forms of contingency management, but typically, you’ll be asked to submit a urine sample at the beginning of your appointment. If that sample does not contain drugs, you’ll be given a small token for a prize. These prizes could be small things, like coupons to baby clothing stores or gift certificates to restaurants. They might also increase in size the longer you participate.

Sarah’s Story

“I went into rehab at three months pregnant. I learned so much about addiction and being a parent in therapy, and when my Derek was born, I felt totally ready for him. I still have a lot of work to do, but I know I’m on the right track.”

Ongoing Support

When your pregnancy is over and the baby is born, you’ll face a different set of challenges, and you’ll need to go through them without the help of drugs. Your counselor might help you to find a safe place to live with your baby when your inpatient addiction program is through, and your counselor might also encourage you to take parenting classes, to learn how to raise your child. If you decide that you’re not ready for parenthood, your counselor might also guide you to adoption specialists. These interventions can help you make a smooth transition, without returning to addiction.