The most important step a person can take who is addicted to drugs or alcohol is to tell someone they need professional help. For women who are pregnant, this is often very hard to do. Admitting they are an addict or alcoholic in the first place is a huge admission of defeat. This step is the beginning of freedom from addiction, especially for expecting women who are alcoholics or addicts. Being pregnant and asking for help means facing more judgment from others. For a pregnant addict or alcoholic to admit they need help for their addiction takes more courage and willingness than in any other situation.
There is Good New Though
The good news is that there are options for women who are pregnant who need help with their addiction. When a pregnant woman asks for addiction treatment, rehab facilities must consider the health of the unborn child. Therefore, her case will be given priority because two lives are at stake. However, although the treatment program options for pregnant and addicted women exist, it is not always that simple.
For women who are pregnant and are addicts or alcoholics, there is an additional stigma attached to their situation. Their bodies are responsible for providing a healthy and safe vessel for a new human life. Therefore, society is less accepting of a pregnant woman who is an addict or alcoholic. The compassion that people have for addicts and alcoholics asking for and getting help is far greater than it is for addicted pregnant women.
Don’t Lose Your Baby
Another barrier that pregnant women face who need help for their addictions is the legal system. Our legal system has the right to protect unborn babies from danger. A woman who is an addict or alcoholic may be considered dangerous. The hurtle that pregnant women who need treatment face here are on whether they are considered dangerous to the unborn child. For these women, the admission of being an addict or alcoholic can get buried under the fear that they will be arrested or face another legal consequence.
For addicted mothers, the shame and fear they feel because of these two social and legal realities are very difficult. Who can blame them? If a non-pregnant addict or alcoholic needs treatment and but is facing societal and legal consequences, more than likely the fear will be too much and they may decide to do nothing and continue to get high or drink. Pregnant women endure the social and legal assumptions that they will be able to end their addictions immediately just because they are pregnant. Addiction does not care if someone is pregnant, dying from ill health, or about to commit a life-changing crime. Addiction will continue unless you’re truly ready to make a change.
According to a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, pregnant women who are addicts or alcoholics are often intimidated to seek help for their pregnancies because of legal and societal judgments.
Substance use during pregnancy and motherhood is both a public health and criminal justice concern…and there are ongoing attempts to criminalize substance use during pregnancy that put pregnant substance-using women at risk of detection, arrest, and punishment. Women’s stories highlighted their strategies for managing their risk of detection by health or criminal justice authorities, including isolating themselves from others, skipping treatment appointments, or avoiding treatment altogether. Women described multiple barriers to treatment and healthcare, including a lack of suitable treatment options and difficulty finding and enrolling in treatment. (NCBI)
Once a person overcomes the barrier of fear and intimidation, it becomes easier to find the courage to accept help from others. The faster a pregnant woman enters a treatment program, the better the outcome becomes for her unborn child.
Your Baby Can Be Healthy
The great news is that there are countless numbers of women who became pregnant while they were drug addicts and alcoholics and entered a drug treatment program and gave birth to perfectly healthy babies. The most important fact for a pregnant addict or alcoholic is that they seek out help for their addictions. The stigma about addiction and alcoholism may be twofold when a woman is pregnant, but the overall stigma about addiction, in general, has dramatically decreased. The opioid epidemic is horrific, but it has helped normalize addiction and recovery.
For addicted women who are pregnant and need professional help, their pregnancy is a priority, but in truth, treatment for their substance abuse is equally important. Society and the legal system may continue to discriminate or place undue judgment or consequences on a pregnant addict or alcoholic woman, but their need for treatment will never disappear. Fortunately, the programs that help pregnant woman end their addiction to drugs and alcohol will also help the woman give birth to a healthy baby. This is the ultimate goal for both her and the unborn baby.
The most important step a pregnant addict can make is to ask for professional help and from numerous sources. The more people that know about a woman who is pregnant and needs help for her addictions, more options will appear. Medically supervised treatment centers are often the starting point for pregnant addicted women. The medical care they receive at the rehab facility will protect their pregnancy, as well as beginning their program in recovery. The protocols for most treatment centers and detox centers are to get the person needing treatment immediately after detox, ideally door to door. By entering a medical detox program, pregnant women will be given priority because they have already made progress in their recovery.