Story by: Kim Huston on December 4, 2019
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there is a baby born with symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) or neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS) every 15 minutes in the United States. It can be scary for pregnant women to seek treatment for substance use disorder due to fear of repercussions and possible stigma. However, recovering from substance abuse disorder while pregnant is safer for mom and baby than giving birth while actively using drugs or alcohol. If you have a pregnant friend or loved one with substance use disorder, what can you do to help?
Before talking to your loved one about substance use disorder, learn about how alcohol or drugs affect pregnancy for both mother and her baby. With that information, you can begin to have a dialogue and say that you want to help your loved one have a healthy, happy pregnancy.
When a woman is pregnant and has substance use disorder, the baby can be affected by those substances as well. A baby whose mother was using opiates (such as heroin or oxycodone) while pregnant may experience symptoms including:
If a woman is dependent on alcohol, the newborn may experience fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). It can cause slow growth, facial abnormalities and brain disorders, including developmental disabilities. Newborns with NAS or FAS require specialized care in the hospital.
Substance use during pregnancy can lead to:
Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital
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Pregnancy provides an important opportunity for friends, family and OB/GYN physicians to identify a substance abuse issue in women and get them help. Women with substance use disorder can face a lot of challenges in getting the help they need for both substance use and pregnancy. Support is critical, because perceived stigma may discourage these women from seeking care.
You can help a loved one by having a conversation. While it may a difficult conversation, you can help provide the support your loved one needs to find help. Here are some steps you could follow to frame and start the conversation:
Treatment services designed specifically for pregnant women can be hard to find. Many programs to treat substance use disorder may be reluctant to accept pregnant women, partly due to lack of knowledge about pregnancy and the unborn baby’s development. Norton Healthcare has a program specifically designed for pregnant women who find themselves in need of specialized care and support. The Norton Maternal Opiate and Substance Treatment (MOST) program offers knowledgeable, supportive staff members who are skilled in caring for pregnant women with substance use disorder and their babies.
The Norton MOST Program offers:
Select an appointment date and time from available spots listed below.