Detox for Pregnant Women

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Substance use is a common topic that people have stigmatized for a long time. This increased stigma contributes to difficulties for people struggling with addiction to reach out for support and seek treatment. The humiliation appears to multiply and increase in the case of pregnant females who cannot stop using illicit substances. For them, this stigmatization can take several forms, such as the belief of misinformation, belittling of parents’ relationship with their children, and punishment for substance abuse.

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What’s unfortunate is that the shame and humiliation of pregnant women struggling with substance use disorder can prevent them from seeking treatment that could potentially prevent them and their babies from complications. Regardless of this constant pressure, experts strongly encourage such females to enter a detox program and seek rehabilitation as soon as possible to minimize the health risks associated with substance use during pregnancy.

Why is it Important to Detox for Pregnant Women?

Unfortunately, the combination of pregnancy and using illicit substances is extremely dangerous and can be potentially fatal for many people. Using any substance, regardless of the type and quantity, during pregnancy can lead to one or more of the following side effects in the baby:

  • Birth defects
  • Low birth weight
  • Small head circumference
  • Sudden infant death syndrome

In the case of mothers, many are at a high risk of developing fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), especially those who drink heavily during pregnancy. FASD can lead to dire consequences, such as birth defects, mental retardation in babies, and spontaneous abortions. In general, 6 to 9 out of every 1000 children born to addicted mothers develop FASDs in the United States. Stillbirth is also a common risk factor in pregnant women abusing drugs. The statistics for the problem are given below:

  • Tobacco can lead increase in the risk of stillbirth by 2.8 percent. The heavier a person smokes, the greater the risk. Even passive exposure to cigarette smoke is likely to increase the risk by a whopping 2.2 percent.
  • Women who consume marijuana are 2.3 times more likely to go through a stillbirth.
  • The use of prescription pain relievers and stimulants can increase the risk of stillbirth in pregnant women

While the use of substances, including drugs and alcohol, is highly discouraged by experts during pregnancy, it must also be avoided during breastfeeding. For instance, the use of marijuana by a breastfeeding mother may cause its active component (THC) to enter the breast milk. From here, THC makes its way into the baby’s body and alters the development of its brain and cognition. Alcohol can adopt a similar mechanism to enter a breastfed baby’s body and disrupt their sleep cycle.

Even though prescription medications are likely to be safe during breastfeeding, it is essential to be careful while using them. Many types of anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications have been known to harm nursing babies by producing side effects like:

  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Skin rashes
  • Excessive crying
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Sleepiness

This is why experts advise breastfeeding mothers to avoid unnecessary medications.

Detox for Pregnant Women: What Does it Include?

Detox is the first step of recovery from addiction. The process helps individuals get sober and go through withdrawal syndrome safely and soundly. The withdrawal process can otherwise be highly uncomfortable and potentially dangerous for pregnant women with symptoms like:

  • Vomiting
  • Bleeding
  • Pelvic pain
  • Hallucinations
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures

The type of detox a pregnant woman goes through will depend on the type of substance she has been using. However, for most of them, experts recommend medically-supervised detox, which includes using medications to make the process more convenient, comfortable, and bearable. The type of medications and their amounts will vary from one woman to another, depending on the type of drug they have been taking and for how long.

Some rehabs may also incorporate therapeutic sessions with counselors in different settings, including one-on-one and group sessions, to make the process easier. These therapies also help women achieve stability and respond to ongoing treatment more quickly than before. It is essential that addiction treatment programs for pregnant women are of the highest quality, culturally appropriate, and accessible. Some form of support must also be available for their partners and families, as addiction usually affects all of them in one way or the other.

To make detox successful, good drug rehab for pregnant women may also involve the following aspects:

  • Opioid agonist therapy, especially for women struggling with heroin addiction
  • Extended evaluations for children exposed to substances
  • Family-centered treatment and therapy, including counseling, parenting classes, and pregnancy education
  • Adjustment of prenatal care according to the specific needs of pregnant women struggling with addiction to heroin or other illicit substances
  • Professional evaluations, assessments, and screenings to find any existing co-occurring mental health issues
  • Couple’s treatment for pregnant women and their partners
  • Case management and in-depth treatment planning for pregnant women with a history of fetal alcohol syndrome, prenatal drug exposure, and similar situations
  • Specialized treatment facilities designed for pregnant women living in challenging life situations, such as domestic abuse
  • Reproductive and contraceptive counseling, including educational sessions on the effects of illegal substances on fetal health

Depending on the degree of a substance use disorder, patients may be advised to move to a facility that provides round-the-clock care in an inpatient setting to adequately address their needs.

Choosing a Drug Rehab for Pregnant Women: Tips to Remember

The fastest way to clean out your system while pregnant without any possible complications is by going for a specialized addiction treatment program. These programs are available in many rehabs across the country. However, choosing one of them can be difficult and requires consideration of multiple factors.

Before choosing a rehab to detox and seek addiction treatment during pregnancy, keep the following tips in mind:

The rehab must prioritize prevention.

Reducing or preventing the use and abuse of substances during pregnancy and even after birth is essential to maintain a mother’s and her baby’s well-being. For this purpose, a good rehab provides well-established aftercare services and programming.

Treatment must include evidence-based services.

Ensure that the rehab you choose uses evidence-based services that can help you regardless of what substance you abuse or how much.

The rehab must respect patient autonomy.

All pregnant women must be fully aware of the possible dangers of substance abuse along with the treatment options available to them.

The facility should provide comprehensive professional care

Make sure that the rehab you finalize includes experienced and well-trained experts who provide comprehensive care and address all aspects of addiction.

The facility must safeguard patients from discrimination and stigmatization.

Unfortunately, stigma is something that pregnant women struggling with addiction can face every step of the way. A professional rehab must be well-equipped and ready to battle such discrimination and treat all clients equally without bias.


Is it going to be challenging to detox while pregnant?

Depending on the degree of alcohol or drug dependency, it may take longer to detox for pregnant women. The process can also become complicated more easily. As a rule of thumb, the more dependent a pregnant woman is on a substance, the more severe her withdrawal symptoms are likely to be. Thankfully, drug rehab for pregnant women can offer the help and support such individuals need to help themselves and their babies get safe from the adverse effects of substances.

Can you detox while pregnant without complications?

A medically-supervised detox during pregnancy in a controlled and safe setting is highly recommended and likely safer than quitting substances cold turkey. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before choosing this process. Remember that detoxing might be difficult and dangerous for a pregnant woman who abuses heroin, especially during the first trimester, as the chances of a miscarriage can be extremely high. It may also not be recommendable for people in their last trimester as it may lead to early labor. If done correctly, the risk of complications is minimal.

What is neonatal abstinence syndrome?

Neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS is a condition in which newborns born to mothers who use substances undergo withdrawal symptoms, typically at birth. While almost every type of substance is likely to produce this syndrome, research exploring this area has focused more on the effects of opioids, including prescription pain relievers or heroin. Additional research also shows that other substances, such as caffeine, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and alcohol, can cause infants to experience withdrawal syndrome. The severity and type of these symptoms can vary depending on the type of drug and how long the mother used them.

Will detox for pregnant women include any addiction therapies?

The first step towards a sober and clean life involves in-depth detoxification. However, the process can be highly challenging for women going through pregnancy. Hence, many rehabs offering detox for pregnant women commonly use addiction therapies to make it easier and increase the chances of recovery. Some widely used addiction therapies in this regard include the following:

  • Yoga therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Family therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Meditation therapy
  • Group sessions

How long does detox for pregnant women last?

The length of a detox program for a pregnant woman may vary depending on several individual factors, such as the following:

  • The body’s reaction to the detox process
  • The type of substance a pregnant female is abusing, its quantity, frequency of use, and the length of addiction so far
  • The type of insurance program and benefits a pregnant female has
  • Whether they are suffering from any co-occurring medical or mental health issues

Does drug use during pregnancy affect mental health after pregnancy?

Postpartum depression remains one of the commonest mental health complications that may occur after birth, with up to 13% of women experiencing it. The likelihood of experiencing this mental health issue is considerably higher in women who have been struggling with substance use for a long time. While the connection is not well-studied so far, up to 30 percent of all people who abuse substances eventually get a diagnosis of an affective disorder at some point in life. This relationship proves how drug use is likely to affect mental health in one way or another, and the connection may be prevalent in pregnant women abusing substances.

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