According to a Michigan Medicine study published earlier this year, amphetamine and opioid use during pregnancy have increased significantly over the past ten years in the US.
The stats show that amphetamine-affected births doubled from 1.2 for every thousand hospitalizations from 2008-2009 to 2.4 by 2014-2015. Opioid use among pregnant women shows an even more startling rise with numbers quadrupling from 1.5 cases for every 1,000 delivery hospitalizations to 6.5. The accuracy of these figures is undeniable as the sample used for the study included around 47 million deliveries in US hospitals over a 12-year period.
These findings indicate a very clear and worrying increase in amphetamine and opioid use affecting delivery and birth outcomes.
Substance Use in Pregnancy More Prevalent in Rural Counties
Although there has been a significant increase in the number of pregnant women abusing amphetamines and opioids across the US, the problem is more concentrated in rural areas. This could be because rural communities have less access to drug addiction treatment facilities and also prenatal care.
According to some studies, stopping amphetamine use during pregnancy can improve birth outcomes but the issue is that there needs to be more promotion of drug rehabilitation programs among pregnant patients with substance use disorders.
In addition, physicians need ways they can guide patients to drug addiction treatment services, particularly in rural areas where they are more difficult to access. An additional problem for pregnant women using substances is that they often don’t tell their doctors for fear of the consequences.
However, the harsh facts remain and amphetamine use during pregnancy increases the risk of mothers dying or developing serious health issues by almost two times to that of women using opioid substances.
Other risks pregnant women with addiction face are premature delivery, preeclampsia or eclampsia, heart attack, and heart failure. Some mothers abusing substances are also more likely to require a blood transfusion.
There are also several risks to babies born to mothers with substance use disorder including the following:
- Neonatal abstinence syndrome (when a baby is born addicted to the substance the mother used)
- Withdrawal symptoms such as body shakes, respiratory problems, fever, diarrhea, and vomiting which can last for up to six months
- Development delays and intellectual impairment
- Premature or stillbirth
Babies born to addicted mothers often need to stay in neonatal intensive care units for an extended period after delivery.
Barriers to Drug Addiction Treatment
Although it is hard to believe in modern day society when our understanding of addiction issues is much better than before, that many women face stigma preventing them from seeking a drug rehabilitation program. There appears to be an unspoken taboo surrounding pregnancy and substance abuse that has prevented open discussion and improved awareness.
The fact is that pregnant women are not precluded from developing addiction just as any other member of society. Despite this, there is a lack of dialogue on the subject that prevents women from highlight their issues by entering a drug addiction treatment center.
Rather than getting supportive care from those close to them and even medical professionals, pregnant women with addiction issues still feel they are judged harshly.
Regardless of society’s attitudes toward pregnancy and substance use and abuse, it is essential to address this issue in order to prevent the significant complications for pregnant mothers and their unborn babies. In America, there are around 4.1 million babies born each year and around 16 percent of pregnant women admit to using drugs or alcohol during pregnancy.
Treatment Options for Pregnant Mothers with Substance Abuse
There is no stereotypical profile of an addict which is probably why many people are shocked by the statistics for pregnant women abusing drugs and alcohol in America. For this reason, individuals entering drug rehab centers are not judged by their addiction or the circumstances surrounding their substance abuse. Once a woman has reached out for help, they are welcomed into a new and supportive community that can help them overcome their issues.
Becoming a parent is a stressful life event, whether for the first time or not. It makes sense that pregnant mothers should have a platform available to them where they can be open about their substance abuse and their need to enter a drug addiction treatment center without fear of judgment. Experts suggest that increasing the dialogue on the subject of pregnancy and substance abuse will eventually lead to a shift in attitudes and more women will be encouraged to step forward and get the help they need in a drug rehab center.