Effects Of Cocaine On Pregnancy And Breastmilk

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Cocaine use is not considered safe during pregnancy for both the woman and the unborn fetus. It is also possible for cocaine to pass through breast milk from mother to infant, so it is also not considered safe to breastfeed while using cocaine.

Cocaine’s Effect On Pregnancy

Cocaine is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant and illicit drug that can have adverse effects on both mother and child if used during pregnancy.

By raising levels of dopamine in the central nervous system, as well as the levels of other neurotransmitters associated with pleasure and reward, cocaine can cause extreme euphoria.

Because of the effects of cocaine, it can be difficult to stop using, and it is especially important for women who are pregnant to stop using cocaine as soon, but as safely, as possible.

Furthermore, cocaine can pass from mother to infant through breast milk and it is not recommended that women use cocaine while breastfeeding.

What Are The Dangers Of Cocaine Abuse During Pregnancy?

Cocaine abuse is always dangerous, but can be particularly dangerous during pregnancy for both the mother and the fetus.

This is true for cocaine that is used by snorting or intravenous modes of ingestion, as well as for both powder cocaine and crack cocaine.

Physical Effects On The Pregnant Woman

The body of a pregnant woman is already under a great deal of stress from the pregnancy, and using cocaine during pregnancy will only increase the stress and physical risks involved.

Effects of cocaine use on pregnant women may include:

  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • high body temperature
  • migraines
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • seizures
  • fast heart rate
  • heart arrhythmias
  • increased risk of heart attack and stroke

Effects On The Pregnancy And Fetus

Cocaine abuse during pregnancy can be detrimental to infant health and can even result in death while the fetus is still in the womb.

Cocaine use during pregnancy can result in:

  • placental abruption
  • stillbirth
  • spontaneous miscarriage

How Cocaine Use May Affect The Baby

The effects of cocaine on pregnancy also extend to the baby after birth.

Children born to mothers who used cocaine during pregnancy are at a higher risk for low birth weight and a small head circumference, and may face further developmental delays as a result.

Additionally, these infants are also at a greater risk for heart defects and certain birth defects, such as a cleft palate.

Babies can also be born with a syndrome called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), with which a baby is born addicted to the substance that their mother used during pregnancy.

Babies that are born with NAS may experience symptoms of dependence and cocaine withdrawal, and may also experience further health issues later on.

How Will Cocaine Use Affect Breastfeeding?

After giving birth and continuing into the postpartum period, cocaine use can cause problems for women who breastfeed.

Cocaine abuse can also result in lactation problems for nursing mothers, and make it difficult for them to produce sufficient amounts of milk.

Cocaine In Breastmilk Can Be Passed To The Baby

Even though the actual high from cocaine use is fast and short-lived, the substance remains in a person’s body for much longer afterward.

Babies are lacking in the enzyme that breaks down cocaine in the body, so breastfeeding infants can be especially sensitive to cocaine exposure from breastmilk.

Breastmilk Laden With Cocaine Can Affect The Baby

A baby that drinks breast milk containing even trace amounts of cocaine may experience some of the side effects that are associated with cocaine.

In cases of heavy cocaine abuse, it is possible for an infant to experience cocaine toxicity.

Side effects of drinking breast milk laden with cocaine may include:

  • mood swings
  • irritability
  • high-pitched crying
  • diarrhea
  • dilated pupils
  • hyperactive reflexes
  • shallow breathing
  • seizures

How Long Does Cocaine Stay In Breastmilk?

The half-life of cocaine is one hour, and it is recommended that a woman wait 24 hours after the use of cocaine to breastfeed, and to substitute with formula in the amount of time between.

However, if a woman is abusing cocaine on a regular basis, it would be best to refrain from breastfeeding entirely, as the levels of cocaine in her blood may not lower enough to be safe.

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine recommends that women only breastfeed if they have abstained from cocaine use for at least 90 days and can present a negative urine test.

Treatment For Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women With Cocaine Addiction

Professional treatment can be essential when overcoming an addiction to cocaine, and can be especially important for women who are pregnant or who are breastfeeding mothers.

It is possible to find treatment centers that are specifically for pregnant women, or who give preferential treatment to expecting or current mothers.

Treatment programs for cocaine addiction and substance use disorders may include:

  • drug testing
  • medically monitored detox
  • healthcare and wellness education
  • dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders
  • residential treatment
  • outpatient treatment
  • partial hospitalization programs (PHP)
  • relapse prevention support

Find A Substance Abuse Treatment Center

Are you or one of your loved ones living with an alcohol or drug use disorder that is affecting your life and personal relationships? We can help.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to us on our helpline. We can answer any questions that you have about cocaine addiction treatment or help you get started at a recovery center today.


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