Inpatient rehab for women is specifically tailored to the needs of individuals struggling with addiction during pregnancy. Using drugs or alcohol during pregnancy exposes a woman and her developing fetus to potentially serious long-term effects. 

Both health care and mental health considerations have to be kept in mind when treating addiction during pregnancy.

Treatment centers that work with pregnant patients are often structured as women-only rehab to promote a more effective and comfortable recovery process. 

Below, we talk about what to know about addiction during pregnancy and getting treatment, including going to a gender-specific treatment program. 

Addiction During Pregnancy

Unfortunately, drug enforcement policies, the fear of stigma, and the potential of losing custody of their child can force women who are pregnant and struggling with addiction to avoid getting help. Along with not seeking addiction treatment, these factors can make it less likely that a woman who has a substance use disorder will get appropriate prenatal care.

Many states prosecute pregnant women for drug use, but research shows this could be the worst thing to do. 

For example, in 2019 in California, a story gained national attention about a woman who gave birth to a stillborn baby. She admitted to methamphetamine use during her pregnancy and was charged with murder. The case led to a debate about whether mothers should be accountable for the use of alcohol or illicit drugs or treated with compassion.

California is one of the dozens of states with laws criminalizing the use of drugs during pregnancy.

A number of laws have been passed in the past decade, specifically in response to the opioid crisis. The research found that the rate of children born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, a type of withdrawal, went up by more than 500% between 2004 and 2014. Opioid overdoses are also a contributing factor to maternal deaths in some cases.

Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association tracked laws criminalizing drug use while pregnant and classifying pregnancy drug use as child abuse. From 2000 to 2015, the states implementing these policies went from 12 to 25.

Nearly the same amount of states started requiring health care professionals to report when they suspect drug abuse during that time.

The study also looked at infant withdrawal symptoms in states enacting these policies. The research team found the odds of a child being born with neonatal abstinence syndrome were significantly higher in the states with the harsher penalties and approaches.

Women disengage from the health care system, according to researchers, when they’re in a state with punitive policies for using illicit substances during pregnancy. 

Treatment should be more accessible if you’re pregnant and struggling with addiction, not less so. Treatment for both addiction and prenatal care is required to improve individual and community outcomes.

As a result of the research that’s shed light on the issue, some states are working on improving treatment options. For example, there are now available health support programs for pregnant and postpartum women who have substance use issues in Texas. The state is also giving access to inpatient rehab for women with new babies to be together while receiving treatment.

The Effects of Drugs on Pregnancy

While more available treatment is one of the most important solutions, it is also necessary to understand the impact of drug and alcohol abuse during pregnancy.

Around five percent of women report using street drugs like cocaine, heroin, and marijuana during pregnancy.

Problems associated with using substances during pregnancy include:

  • Preterm labor, miscarriage, or stillbirth
  • Premature birth 
  • Low birth weight
  • Smaller-than-normal head size
  • Heart defects
  • Birth defects
  • Infections
  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a group of health conditions that can occur when a baby is exposed to drugs before they’re born and then undergoes withdrawal symptoms after being born.
  • Behavioral and learning problems
  • Slower-than-normal growth and development
  • Higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
inpatient rehab for women

Treatment for Addiction During Pregnancy

When a woman is pregnant and seeking addiction treatment, there are unique considerations to look for in a program. Treating addiction during pregnancy is more complex, and most need care at specialized inpatient rehab centers. 

When someone is pregnant and addicted to drugs, particularly opioids, they can’t stop cold turkey in most cases. Stopping suddenly can be harmful to a mother and her unborn baby. The same can be true with alcohol.

Since detoxing while pregnant can be dangerous, a woman needs a treatment team that understands the unique risks as part of the treatment plans overall. 

For example, there are medication-assisted treatment options that can often be safe for pregnant women in addiction treatment programs. 

Some of the other services that might need to be available from an outpatient or inpatient rehab for women who are pregnant include:

A woman in a rehab program for addiction during pregnancy can receive the medical care and treatment she needs to stay healthy and have a healthy pregnancy. Inpatient rehab for women who are pregnant might include a focus on healthy eating and nutrition, getting plenty of sleep, and general things that help a mother and unborn baby’s well-being.

Mental healthcare is also extremely important. Many women with substance use disorders have co-occurring mental health disorders and mental health issues like depression or bipolar disorder. There is also often a history of trauma such as sexual abuse or sexual assault that can complicate their situation with their addiction to illicit drugs. 

In a treatment program, women can work individually with a therapist on their co-occurring disorders and participate in group therapy.

Behavioral therapy helps women understand what’s led to their drug abuse and the root causes so that they can better re-renter their lives in a healthy way. 

Peer support groups can help both during treatment and as a relapse prevention strategy.

Transitional services can include childcare, housing options for women with newborns, and educational programs.

Family counseling could be part of treatment, particularly if a woman has other children or has a strained family dynamic.

A case manager may work with patients and help them organize and access services after leaving substance abuse treatment and throughout their recovery journey from alcohol or illegal drugs. 

Is Residential Treatment Most Effective?

Inpatient rehab for pregnant women does tend to be the best and most effective long-term approach to addiction. 

The Journal of Substance Abuse published a study with more than 300 women. The women were enrolled in a residential treatment program specifically for pregnant and parenting women. The level of functioning was looked at before and after treatment at a drug rehab center. 

Women showed improvement in many areas, along with reductions in substance use.

They also had improvements in employment, fewer legal issues, fewer mental health symptoms, and a more positive attitude toward parenting.

The Silicon Valley Recovery team is here if you’d like to learn more about an inpatient rehab for women that can address addiction during pregnancy, just call 408-547-4089. We don’t believe shame or stigma is ever the answer to the disease of addiction. Contact us confidentially to learn more.

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