First of all, remember: it’s not just drugs that cause problems with a pregnancy.
Stress can cause problems in the pregnancy, too. And many women use drugs to cope with stress. The combination can lead to bigger problems. As a service provider, you have to look at the whole picture. Other things besides drugs that can be harmful during pregnancy are:

  • Other kinds of stress. Women often have too much work to do. They look after other  children, do a lot of the work around their home, or they have a paid job. There’s no time left to look after herself during her pregnancy.

  • An abusive partner. They hurt, threaten, or mistreat women in any way. This includes  emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Any kind of abuse is harmful to a woman and her baby. Women need support, not more stress, when they’re pregnant.

  • Living in poverty. Many women in our communities experience the problems caused by  living in poverty.  There isn’t enough food, adequate housing, heat, clean water, or other basic needs that pregnant women need to be healthy. Any of these things can lead to problems with pregnancy and affect a baby after it’s born.

  • Using more than one drug at a time.  This is sometimes called “polydrug use”. More  problems are caused if women use more than one drug (including alcohol, prescription drugs, and cigarettes). And the biggest problems are caused if women use drugs regularly or heavily.

It’s never too late to quit or cut down.  Or, if she’s using opiates, encourage her to get on Subutex. Encourage her to try to do this as early in her pregnancy as she can. It will prevent some of the drug’s harmful effects. And even if she can’t quit completely, cutting down on drug use is important. It can be a way to learn how to quit eventually.

The effects of drugs are different for every woman and her baby.

She can’t compare herself to her family and friends. Some women will be more affected by drugs than other women are. Some babies will be more affected by drugs than other babies are. And it depends on the kind of drug a pregnant woman is using. For more information about this topic, go to the Understanding section of this site, here

Want more information about what it’s like for women who struggle with substance use and addiction? Check this out:

The Life You Want: A Young Woman’s Struggle Through Addiction

The Life You Want: A Young Woman's Struggle Though Addiction from Thunderstone Pictures on Vimeo.

Want more information about the context of the lives of women who struggle with substance use during pregnancy? Check this out:

Why do girls and women drink alcohol during pregnancy? Information for Service Providers