A woman was reportedly found dead outside an apartment building in New Orleans of an apparent overdose. The young woman was a mother of two and seven months pregnant, according to family members. It is a devastating story, a young mother living with an active addiction who died of an overdose before she could get the help she needed – but unfortunately, this story is not uncommon.
If someone you love is pregnant and living with an addiction or the parent of young children, you can make a difference by helping to connect the parent in need with treatment that can better their life and the lives of their children. Here’s what you need to know.
Addiction and Pregnancy
No amount of alcohol, prescription medications, or any legal addictive substance is recommended for use during pregnancy at any point, and of course, neither is any illegal addictive substance. During pregnancy, the baby is subject to the effects of whatever the mother ingests. Drugs like cocaine, alcohol, marijuana, heroin, and prescription pills all cross the placenta barrier, causing the baby to ingest the drug as well. These substances can negatively impact the development of the baby in utero, stunting growth and contributing to low birth weight, or cause a spontaneous miscarriage.
For babies who survive the pregnancy of a mother addicted to drugs, addiction will define their first hours and days of life, and developmental issues will plague them for their entire lives. Babies born addicted to drugs have been shown to have higher rates of behavioral and academic difficulties throughout their childhoods, often lagging behind their peers when hitting developmental milestones.
There is no scenario in which any amount of drug or alcohol use during pregnancy is guaranteed to leave the unborn child unscathed. Mothers who continue an active addiction throughout pregnancy will be less prepared to handle the stresses of motherhood than they would if they were drug-free and living in recovery.
Addiction and Parenting
For mothers who do not get the support they need to transition into active recovery during pregnancy, it can be that much more difficult to withstand the ups and downs of early recovery while also dealing with the demands of parenting a newborn. Children who grow up with an addicted parent, regardless of whether or not their mother used substances during pregnancy, are more likely to:
- Struggle academically and socially
- Suffer from frequent physical illness
- Experience emotional issues and behavioral problems
- Develop a substance use disorder of their own later in life
Parenting a child who is struggling can be difficult in the best of circumstances, and for a parent who is dealing with their own addiction, it can mean a cycle of dysfunction that is hard to break.
It Is Never Too Late to Get Help
The good news is that at no point in this process – from first recognition of pregnancy to years down the road – is it too late to reach out for addiction treatment. Mothers who are living in addiction and find out they are pregnant, even if they find out late in the pregnancy, should still immediately seek treatment and get medical advice on how best to proceed for the safest pregnancy possible. Parents who are struggling with addiction who have children of any age will benefit their children by reaching out for appropriate treatment. Everyone can have the opportunity to heal and to live the best possible version of their lives going forward when they seek treatment when a substance use disorder is present.
What Does Your Family Need to Heal?
If you, or someone in your family, are struggling with an addiction disorder, the healing process can begin right now. Taking the time to better understand the consequences of an untreated addiction as well as the opportunities available through treatment can help everyone involved to connect with services that can be life-changing. The past cannot be changed, but the future is wide open. The hope for a brighter childhood and a brighter future is always on the horizon through treatment and sustained recovery.
How can you make the world a safer place for the children in your family?