Drug & Alcohol Addiction Treatment During Pregnancy
Using drugs or alcohol while pregnant poses a health risk to both you and your baby. If you have become pregnant while addicted to drugs or alcohol, don’t let your fear of being judged hold you back from your treatment goals—there are various sympathetic addiction treatment programs for pregnancy that are equipped and ready to help you through this difficult situation.
Alcohol and drug rehab programs for pregnant women offer a safe place to receive the addiction treatment you need—including detox and inpatient or outpatient treatment—and give you and your baby the best possible chance for a safe pregnancy and healthy delivery.
Risk of Alcohol or Drug Misuse During Pregnancy
Addiction is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a chronic illness that affects millions of Americans, including people who are pregnant. Research shows that more than 17 million people struggle with alcohol addiction and almost 25 million adults abuse illegal and prescription drugs.1
Data from addiction treatment admissions shows that around 5% of people (of child-bearing age) are pregnant when they enter rehab for alcohol or drug addiction.2
No matter how it’s ingested—whether by drinking, smoking, snorting, swallowing, or injecting—any drug or alcoholic substance consumed during pregnancy could pass to your baby. Many substances pass easily through the placenta and the umbilical cord.
Recent research shows that using illegal drugs, taking prescription pain relievers, and smoking tobacco or marijuana while you are pregnant can double or even triple the risk of stillbirth.3
Signs and Symptoms of Substance Misuse in Pregnancy
Treatment for substance abuse in pregnancy can help reduce dangerous risks. The use of some drugs during pregnancy can be fatal to the baby.3 Others can lead to issues with fetal development or inflict other forms of long-term damage.
There are common signs and symptoms of substance abuse in pregnancy, including:4,5
- High blood pressure.
- Not caring about appearance.
- Missing school or work.
- Changing eating or sleeping habits.
- Experiencing trouble with family and friends.
- Losing interest in things previously valued.
Using drugs while pregnant can result in:3
- Low birth weight
- Birth defects
- Withdrawal symptoms after birth
- Small head circumference
- Premature birth
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Regular drug use during pregnancy can also cause your baby to experience withdrawal symptoms after he or she is born. The type and severity of withdrawal symptoms that your baby can experience varies depending on what substance was abused and how often. Going to rehab during pregnancy can help prevent the following symptoms of withdrawal when your baby is born:3
- Blotchy skin
- Excessive or high-pitched crying
- Poor feeding
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Slow weight gain
The risk of a substance use disorder (SUD) in pregnancy can have various negative effects, including fetal alcohol syndrome.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Drinking during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. Heavy drinking during pregnancy is one of the leading causes of developmental disabilities and reduces your chances of having a healthy baby.
When you drink while pregnant, the alcohol in your blood passes to your baby through the umbilical cord. These are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Children with FASDs can show following characteristics and behaviors:6
- Abnormal facial features
- Small head size
- Shorter-than-average height
- Low body weight
- Poor coordination
- Hyperactive behavior
- Difficulty with attention
- Poor memory
- Difficulty in school (especially with math)
- Learning disabilities
- Speech and language delays
- Intellectual disability or low IQ
- Poor reasoning and judgment skills
- Sleep and sucking problems as a baby
- Vision or hearing problems
- Problems with the heart, kidney, or bones
Addiction Treatment During Pregnancy
There are many drug and alcohol rehabs programs designed to help you begin recovery while pregnant. These programs are private and confidential, and clinicians are sympathetic to your struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. They know that nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, so they won’t judge you.6 They also understand pregnancy can change everything, because you are suddenly responsible for another life.
Going to rehab during pregnancy can also be a lifeline for parents-to-be and newborn babies. Caring for an infant is extraordinarily stressful for even the most prepared parents. Many people who stay sober during pregnancy relapse shortly after the baby is born. Stress and exhaustion are powerful triggers that can lead people back to drugs or alcohol. Other factors, such as postpartum depression, can push new mothers to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), new moms should avoid heavy drinking while breastfeeding to avoid health consequences for the baby.7
It is also unsafe to use any illegal drugs while breastfeeding. Drug use while breastfeeding can cause seizures, vomiting, poor feeding, and tremors in your baby.7 The best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to get comprehensive addiction treatment during pregnancy that sets you up for long-term recovery
Rehabilitation, or rehab, can be used to help a person recover from addictions, injuries, and even physical or mental illnesses. However, drug rehab programs are usually the most common types of rehab. People addicted to drugs often need the additional care and assistance that drug rehab provides.
Safe Alcohol & Drug Detox During Pregnancy
Detoxing during pregnancy from drugs and alcohol is the first step on the path to recovery. For pregnant people, detox while pregnant is a critical period because your baby is detoxing, too. During drug and alcohol detox, your body eliminates the drugs and alcohol that it is physically dependent on.
It is vital that someone looking to detox while pregnant look for safe detox while pregnant by enrolling in a 24-hour medical facility, such as a hospital or inpatient program. Some 24-hour detox programs provide constant supervision and care but in a social setting; that is often effective and safe for non-pregnant women with mild addictions, but that is not a safe environment for a pregnant mother-to-be.
Pregnant women require around-the-clock medical treatment to prevent and address any complications that may raise.8
Doctors and nurses monitor the pregnancy detox process and safely manage withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the substance being eliminated from the body and severity of the patient’s dependence, doctors may prescribe medication to relieve withdrawal symptoms and ease cravings for the drug.
For instance, if a pregnant woman is addicted to alcohol and is at risk of experiencing withdrawal complications, such as grand mal seizures, benzodiazepines could possibly be used to keep her and her baby safe, but typically on a case-by-case basis. This is because research appears to be mixed on whether benzodiazepines, such as Xanax or Valium, are safe for pregnant mothers.
That being said, if the potential benefits of administering benzos to a pregnant woman seem to outweigh the risk of dangerous consequences, then benzos may be used.9
Alcohol and drug withdrawal can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Drug and alcohol rehab centers for expectant mothers have staff who are trained to manage drug withdrawal symptoms for both parent and baby. Depending on the substances abused, withdrawal symptoms could include:10,11
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle aches and pains
- Loss of appetite
- Fast heart rate
- Anxiety and depression
- Irritability and agitation
In rehab for pregnant women or persons, physicians assess each individual to determine the best course of treatment for both the individual and baby. They can help manage potential risks and complications, such as seizures and delirium.
Some pregnant mothers or persons will be treated with medications to ease withdrawal, combat cravings, and help them stay sober during pregnancy.
Expectant mothers struggling with opioid addiction can safely take methadone while pregnant. Methadone manages withdrawal symptoms and prevents dangerous relapses. Methadone is safe during pregnancy, but the baby could still experience withdrawal symptoms after birth.12
Inpatient & Outpatient Drug Rehab During Pregnancy
Inpatient drug and alcohol rehab programs for pregnant women and persons can be an important milestone on the road to recovery from substance use disorders, especially for those who are dealing with severe addiction-related issues.
Residential addiction treatment for pregnant women and persons will provide 24/7 supervision and care while you reside at the center for the duration of the program. Hospital-based programs offer around-the-clock medical care from healthcare professionals. Many non-hospital-based residential programs also facilitate access to medical services when needed.
Outpatient programs for pregnant mothers and persons provide the same types of treatment and programs as inpatient facilities do, but they are often a lower level of care. In an outpatient program, the patient attends treatment, including individual and group therapy, while continuing to live at home.
While outpatient addiction treatment programs are typically not as intensive as inpatient ones, they allow the individual to learn about their substance misuse and the triggers that can bring on drug or alcohol misuse. Outpatient care can be a good opportunity for those who are working through a less severe addiction.
Outpatient addiction treatment during pregnancy can range from a couple hours per week to several hours per day, depending on the specific program. Outpatient programming may provide treatment after detoxing while pregnant or it may also be part of a step-down program as a patient progresses through pregnancy and addiction. As with any alcohol or drug rehab, there is a time commitment to outpatient care to provide pregnant women and persons with the best chance at recovery.
Sober Living for Pregnant Women and Persons
Sober living homes provide people, including pregnant women and persons, with an environment where they can continue their recovery while living with others who are going through the same thing. Sober living for pregnant women and persons provides group homes for those recovering from drug or alcohol addiction and they provide individuals with structure, support, and continued treatment as they work on their recovery in a home without the triggers they may have to deal with at home.13
Benefits of Addiction Treatment During Pregnancy
A drug detox while pregnant may only be the first step in treatment for substance abuse. Addiction treatment during pregnancy should include a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses the root cause of the person’s addiction whether it is in an inpatient or outpatient setting. People who leave detox without transitioning into a comprehensive treatment program run the risk of relapsing.
As a new parent, you will face several stressful situations. Learning the proper skills to help you deal with that stress is a great way to take care of yourself and your baby. When you are a pregnant woman or person, there are a number of things you can do to better prepare yourself for your future role. Rehabs for pregnant women and persons may offer a variety of different services to help you build a healthy family such as:
- Pregnancy education and counseling
- Parenting classes
- Prenatal care
- Individual, group, and family addiction therapy
- Life skills workshops
- Job training and placement
Some who are pregnant may also suffer from a mental health disorder and need help with this condition as well. Dual diagnosis treatment for pregnant mothers involves integrated and comprehensive care to fully address and rectify both mental health and addiction. Programming may include more mental-health focused care or support groups with other people in treatment struggling with similar issues. Some treatment centers also offer rehab for women only or couples rehab programs for those looking for these types of specialty services.
If you are pregnant and have been using drugs or alcohol, you can still help your baby. Starting addiction treatment today can make a difference.
Does Insurance Cover Addiction Rehab During Pregnancy?
The Affordable Care Act requires that insurance companies cover at least some of the cost of addiction treatment. So, using insurance for rehab ensures that at least some of the cost of drug or alcohol addiction treatment will be covered, depending on your individual insurance plan.
Finding Addiction Treatment Programs During Pregnancy
If you want to find the best rehab for pregnant women or persons, it’s important to carefully consider the various types of treatment programs available near you and state-wide to ensure your needs are met. The best and most effective treatment is that which is tailored to your individual needs, whether it’s in an inpatient or outpatient setting.
Depending on your location, you may find there is not appropriate addiction treatment for those who are pregnant and addicted. However, if there are programs nearby, consider the pros and cons of being admitted to a local program versus traveling out of state. Our rehab directory can help you search through treatment providers throughout the United States to find the right fit your needs of those of your pregnant loved one.
If you would like more information about addiction treatment options available in your area, contact AAC’s helpful admissions navigators at for a free, private consultation today.
American Addiction Centers maintains a strong partnership with a large group of insurance companies at our addiction treatment facilities. Start the journey to recovery and find out instantly using the form below if your health insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies.
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