Substance Abuse During Pregnancy
Being pregnant is one of life’s many blessings. The 9 months a baby spends in the womb are very important for staying healthy. These 9 months are very vital for the baby’s life. Anything that is taken in the mother’s body can have an effect on the baby. Using any substance during pregnancy is very bad for the baby and can cause the baby to have problems it will forever have to live with.
Problems Caused by Heroin Abuse During Pregnancy
- Birth defects. These are health conditions that are present at birth. Birth defects change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. They can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops, or in how the body works.
- Placental abruption. This is a serious condition in which the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus before birth. The placenta supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. Placental abruption can cause very heavy bleeding and can be deadly for both mother and baby.
- Premature birth. This is birth that happens too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
- Low birthweight. This is when a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.
- Neonatal abstinence syndrome (also called NAS). NAS happens when a baby is exposed to a drug in the womb before birth and then goes through drug withdrawal after birth.
- This is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- Sudden infant death syndrome (also SIDS). This is the unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old.
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
Heroin abuse during pregnancy can cause neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) NAS occurs when heroin passes through the placenta to the fetus during pregnancy, causing the baby to become dependent along with the mother. Symptoms include excessive crying, fever, irritability, seizures, slow weight gain, tremors, diarrhea, vomiting, and possibly death. NAS requires hospitalization and treatment with medication (often morphine) to relieve symptoms; the medication is gradually tapered off until the baby adjusts to being opioid-free. Methadone maintenance combined with prenatal care and a comprehensive drug treatment program can improve many of the outcomes associated with untreated heroin use for both the infant and mother, although infants exposed to methadone during pregnancy typically require treatment for NAS as well. The abuse of heroin during pregnancy can also cause premature birth, birth defects and still birth.
Although heroin abuse is dangerous period, especially during pregnancy, it is even more dangerous to just stop the heroin abuse alone. If someone is wanting to stop the abuse it is important to get help from a doctor. Not only does the mother become addicted the baby she is carrying becomes addicted as well, and immediately stopping could cause harm to the mother and the baby and possible death.
Many women attempt to stop using heroin on their own, but when they do, they develop unpleasant symptoms such as:
- Involuntary jerking muscles
In addition to these symptoms, you might also feel a relentless desire to use heroin again. These cravings could lead you back to drug use, even if you never intended to use the drug again in order to protect your baby.
If you are pregnant and using heroin, you need to get help now. This is not something that you can take care of on your own. If you try to go “cold turkey” and quit drugs too quickly, you can cause the death of your baby. Scientists believe this occurs because the baby suddenly becomes hyperactive, then oxygen-deprived. For this reason, doctors usually withdraw mothers from heroin after the baby is born, or very gradually during pregnancy, sometimes by using a replacement drug like methadone. Your heroin use puts you at risk for some serious health conditions. For example, you have a 50 percent chance of developing heart disease, anemia, diabetes, pneumonia, and hepatitis during your pregnancy. These are much higher odds than the average mother faces. Heroin slows the growth of your child both during and after pregnancy. If you do not get medical care, it is four times more likely that your baby will die during your pregnancy or shortly after being born. The baby will simply be too small to survive.
If you or someone you know is abusing heroin pregnant or not, it is very important to get medical help right away! Do not hesitate to call for help today!