Substance abuse in people who are pregnant is a major public health concern that can have significant implications for both maternal and fetal health.
While detoxing from drugs while pregnant carries certain risks, the risks are even greater with the continued misuse of addictive substances while pregnant.
Thus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), detoxing with medical support during pregnancy is the recommended course of action.
Why Detoxing While Pregnant Is Necessary
Substance abuse can pose a number of serious risks to maternal and fetal health while pregnant, including low birth weight, birth defects, and miscarriage.
Detoxing during pregnancy is still generally recommended if you’re struggling with a problem of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, or have a substance use disorder.
What Are The Risks Of Substance Abuse During Pregnancy?
Millions of Americans struggle with some form of substance abuse, including people who are or become pregnant.
According to research, risks of substance abuse during pregnancy include:
- neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)
- low birthweight
- premature birth
- fetal abnormalities
- birth defects
- feeding problems
- breathing problems
- behavioral problems in childhood
- dangers to maternal health (e.g. overdose)
- sudden infant death syndrome
Specific risks and consequences of drug use during pregnancy can differ depending on the type of drug taken, as well as other biological and environmental risk factors.
Pregnancy Detox And Treatment Options
The benefits of seeking a detox program while pregnant is applicable to a wide range of substance use issues, including alcohol addiction and opioid addiction.
The safest option for detox during pregnancy is inpatient detox, also known as medical detox or medically supervised detox.
Pregnancy detox options can be found through:
- an addiction treatment center
- a detox facility
- some hospitals/medical centers
Opioid Detox During Pregnancy
Opioid abuse during pregnancy is a growing concern. The U.S. opioid epidemic affects millions of Americans, including women who are or become pregnant.
Common opioids of abuse, including drugs such as heroin and fentanyl, can cause serious harm to fetal development and may result in stillbirth or fetal loss.
Alcohol Detox During Pregnancy
No amount of alcohol is considered safe to drink while pregnant. But detoxing from alcohol can also be highly dangerous, and should not be attempted alone.
According to the CDC, risks of alcohol use during pregnancy include:
- fetal alcohol syndrome
- birth defects
- small head size
- learning disabilities
- low birth weight
- speech or language delays
- hyperactive behavior
- problems with heart, kidneys, or bones
Prescription Drug Detox During Pregnancy
Some prescription drugs can be taken while pregnant, if the benefits of continuing to take a medication are determined by a doctor to outweigh potential risks.
However, this does not apply to cases of substance abuse, where someone is taking a prescription drug for reasons other than prescribed.
Common prescription drugs of abuse include:
- sleeping pills
- prescription opioids
If you are abusing a prescription drug while pregnant, finding a detox program to help you safely get off the drug is highly recommended.
Detoxing From Street Drugs While Pregnant
The use of illicit drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine (meth), or heroin during pregnancy can be very dangerous for an expecting mother and her unborn baby.
A drug detox program can offer medical monitoring for complications during withdrawal, as well as treatment for withdrawal symptoms, and aftercare coordination.
Is Detoxing While Pregnant Risk-Free?
Detox is never risk-free, even when it occurs in those who are not pregnant.
While detox professionals can help reduce or mitigate the risks of detoxification while pregnant, this does not eliminate the risk of complications entirely.
Potential risks include:
- moderate to severe withdrawal
- strong drug cravings
- fetal complications or loss
- risk of relapse
Still, the risks of substance abuse are generally determined to be a greater concern than potential risks of detox and drug treatment during pregnancy.
What Factors Can Affect Risks Of Detox While Pregnant?
The risks of detoxification during pregnancy can vary depending on several factors.
Those factors include:
- the detox setting (e.g. inpatient vs. outpatient)
- detoxing “cold turkey”
- medical treatment provided
- co-occurring health conditions
- type of substance used
- severity of drug dependency
- duration of substance abuse
- polysubstance use
- method of drug abuse
Upon entering a detox program, detox professionals will assess these risks with you, and develop a treatment plan for withdrawal accordingly.
Can You Detox From Home While Pregnant?
Attempting detox at home without medical support can be very dangerous.
Because there is a risk of experiencing medical complications during detox, it’s critical to seek professional help through a healthcare provider for detox.
Some drug rehab centers offer detox treatment programs specifically designed for people who are or become pregnant with a substance use disorder.
Benefits of detox programs include:
- 24/7 medical monitoring
- reduced risks during withdrawal
- treatment for withdrawal symptoms
- initiation of medication-assisted treatment for opioid recovery (e.g. methadone, buprenorphine)
- coordination for further substance abuse treatment
Find A Detox Program For Pregnancy Near You
Getting off drugs safely while pregnant is possible with the right support. And the sooner you seek help, the better.
Call our helpline today to find a detox program for yourself or a pregnant loved one with addiction near you.Article Sources
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Substance Use During Pregnancy
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — TIP 45 Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — What are the unique needs of pregnant women with substance use disorders?