The Impact of Substance Abuse on Foetal Development

Pregnancy is a journey of significant transformation and anticipation. Awaiting the arrival of a child can be some of the most exciting times of one’s life, but if substance abuse is intertwined with this delicate process, it can become quite the opposite. Today, we want to discuss the impact substance abuse can have on foetal development, highlighting how pregnancy has the possibility of triggering cravings, the steps to take to ensure things go smoothly, what the risks are, and what you should do if you are concerned that substance abuse might affect yours or anyone else’s pregnancy. Any substance consumed during pregnancy can directly affect the foetus, so it is essential to understand what is best for our children. 

Can Pregnancy Trigger Cravings?

Most will be aware that hormonal changes during pregnancy can intensify cravings. We all know someone who craved a specific food or beverage whilst pregnant, but what about those individuals who have struggled with substance abuse in the past? If this is the case, it can sometimes be particularly challenging to deal with. The emotional and physical stress of pregnancy, alongside the hormonal fluctuations, may sometimes be too much, triggering cravings for substances such as drugs or alcohol. Additionally, if these cravings do occur, there may be heightened stress levels due to the societal expectations surrounding pregnancy. This could potentially exacerbate someone’s desire to turn to substances as a coping mechanism. 

While on the subject, we want to highlight the importance of recognising that cravings during pregnancy are not uncommon, and it does not mean there is a lack of maternal love or concern for the unborn child. In fact, it is something that many women go through during their pregnancy, so we must all recognise that nobody is alone in this, and there is plenty of support out there if this is affecting you or a loved one. Pregnancy is highly complex, so if you feel professional help is needed during this time, don’t hesitate to contact someone straight away. At Calm Rehab, we understand this struggle and will never discriminate when dealing with anybody’s concerns relating to addiction. 

Could Withdrawing from Drugs or Alcohol Due to Pregnancy Cause Potential Danger?

Firstly, making the decision to quit is a vital step towards ensuring the well-being of the unborn child and mother. However, though it is commendable, abruptly withdrawing from any substance may pose its own dangers. If the mother suffers bad withdrawal symptoms during pregnancy, it can directly affect the foetus and can run the risk of health implications for both. 

Abrupt withdrawal can lead to several complications, such as electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, and tremendous stress on the foetus. In severe situations, it can cause something known as neonatal abstinence syndrome in both mother and child. 

It is imperative to seek the help of a medical professional when planning to abruptly stop any regular substance intake during pregnancy. They will be able to provide an insight into how this may affect both the mother and child and do any relevant medical testing prior to withdrawal, alongside monitoring the situation throughout. This is something that should be taken very seriously and carried out with extreme care and caution. 

What Are the First Steps You Should Take If You Are Concerned About Your Pregnancy and Substance Abuse?

If you are pregnant and struggling with substance abuse or know anyone who is, it is crucial to take the first steps towards recovery. It can be terribly difficult to admit we need help, but there is no time more important to do so than when having a child. Here is some guidance if you find yourself in this situation. 

Consult a healthcare professional – The first step in navigating the complexities of addiction during pregnancy is scheduling an appointment with an obstetrician or healthcare provider to openly discuss the situation. They will be able to provide insight, assess any potential risks, and provide guidance toward appropriate medical care. 

Reach out to an experienced addiction specialist – Talking with a specialist in drug and alcohol addiction who has experience with pregnancy is the next big step. They will be able to help address any specific needs of the pregnancy and tailor a fitting recovery plan. 

Start looking into rehab options – Exploring rehabilitation programs that specialise in maternal care can ensure a comprehensive approach to both substance abuse recovery and looking after the unborn child. These programs are brilliant for integrating paternal preparation, medical care, and addiction treatment. 

Develop a support group – One of the most essential things to do for anyone battling addiction is to inform their loved ones of what they are going through. Doing this can provide a person with the support and environment they need and make a significant difference in the entire recovery process. This can also be achieved by joining local support groups where people can openly discuss any issues they are dealing with. 

Understanding the Dangers of Substance Abuse During Pregnancy

For many women struggling with substance abuse during pregnancy, it can be excruciatingly challenging to seek the help they need. Accepting this situation is difficult, let alone telling our family, friends, or a medical professional. Often, women find themselves avoiding the subject and living in denial, so it is crucial to have an insight into the risks that substance abuse poses to an unborn child. 

Small Head Circumference – It’s possible that substance abuse throughout pregnancy can disrupt the development of the foetal brain, leading to a smaller head circumference. In childhood, this can cause impaired cognitive functions or developmental delays. Sometimes, the long-term effects of this are not seen until the child gets older.

Premature Birth – There is a direct correlation between substance intake during pregnancy and premature birth. This can result in a wide range of health implications for the newborn, including developmental delays and respiratory distress syndrome. 

Low Birth Weight – A low weight at birth can increase the risks of complications during delivery and potentially impact the long-term health of a child. 

Birth Defects – It is possible that certain substances consumed in the early stages of pregnancy can lead to abnormalities in the developing foetus. Common birth defects associated with substance abuse include limb abnormalities, cleft lip and palate, and heart defects. 

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) – When substance abuse continues throughout pregnancy, there is a heightened risk of SIDS. This is when a child under the age of one year old suddenly dies of a seemingly unknown cause. 

Signs that May Indicate Withdrawal in Newborns

If a person has struggled with substance abuse disorder throughout their pregnancy, it is vital to keep the baby under constant supervision and seek the support and advice of a medical professional. When newborn babies have withdrawal symptoms, it is known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) and can pose a threat to the child’s health. Here are some of the symptoms that can show either straight away or within the first 14 days of a baby being born if they are struggling with NAS. If you notice any of them, seek medical assistance instantly. 

  • Excessive crying, fussiness, or irritability 
  • Trouble feeding 
  • Tremors or shaking 
  • Hyperactivity and restlessness 
  • Vomiting, diarrhoea or gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Difficulty staying asleep 
  • Excessive high-pitched crying 
  • Sweating or fever 
  • Seizures
  • Blotchy colouring on skin 
  • Abnormal sucking reflex 
  • Rapid Breathing 
  • Slow weight gain 
  • Stuffy nose and sneezing 

Don’t be Afraid to Seek the Help and Support You Need

If you are concerned for yourself or anyone you know, never hesitate to reach out. Pregnancy is both delicate and complex at the best of times, so it is essential to seek help and guidance from medical professionals, counsellors, and therapists if someone is struggling with substance abuse disorder during theirs. The last thing any of us want to do is to cause harm to our children, so reaching out can be one of the most significant things you can do to enhance a child’s health.

At Calm Rehab, we understand the difficulties you face when you find yourself in this situation, but we cannot stress enough that you are not alone in this, and there are plenty of people willing to support you throughout the entire process. Addiction can be cruel and lead us to believe that it is too late to turn back, but with a comprehensive, supportive, caring, and holistic recovery plan, it is far more achievable than you might think. 

If you have any questions or concerns regarding substance abuse disorder, recovery, or rehabilitation, please contact us now to discuss the available options at our rehab clinic in Bali. We are composed of a highly qualified, experienced, and passionate team who are fully dedicated to ensuring people suffering from substance abuse disorder can get back to living a normal life and become the best version of themselves. No matter how out of reach recovery seems, we promise that we can guide you every step of the way. 

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