Today, an estimated 20.4 million Americans struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. With almost one in 10 Americans struggling with substance use disorder at some point in their lives, addiction is extremely common. And, while women are just as likely as men to become addicted to a substance, women are often pushed into maintaining life as usual and hiding addictions rather than seeking treatment. Addiction puts women at increased risk of disease, domestic violence, and promiscuity, which also heavily contributes to increased rates of pregnancy. Heavy substance abuse of any kind increases promiscuity and pregnancy.
If that’s you or a loved one, you’re probably struggling right now. As a Christian, an unplanned pregnancy can be devastating and a reminder that you are not living the life our Lord wants you to. If you’re also struggling with a substance use disorder, you have the social pressure of shame, guilt, and judgement going along with that. These feelings of worthlessness and failure are created by society and not by God. In HIs eyes you have miss-stepped, but there is time and there are tools for you to find your way back to HIs Grace. The fact that you are struggling now does not mean that you cannot ever recover. In fact, taking time to seek treatment and recover from addiction is the best thing you can do for yourself, for your baby, and for God.
This is Not Your Fault But It Is Your Responsibility
No one chooses to become addicted. While you certainly made choices that led you to where you are now, many things that happened were outside your control. Similarly, addiction is not something you actively choose. Someone might choose to drink or use, they do not choose physical and behavioral dependence. Instead, substance use disorders are recognized as a mental health disorder on the same level as anxiety or bipolar disorder. The Affordable Care Act classifies them as a temporary disability, allowing you to get time off work to seek medical treatment.
While there should be no more shame and guilt centered around alcohol and drug abuse and use disorder than something like making poor decisions that lead to hepatitis, there is. Many of us are taught that using or drinking makes us weak, broken, and permanently an addict. That isn’t true. What it does mean is that you need therapy and treatment to change the underlying problems that allowed you to let yourself move into this state. That can involve months or even years of therapy, assessing and changing your behavior patterns, and putting in hard work to make your life better than it is now. You might be an addict now but you don’t have to be forever. You can change.
Only now, you have someone else to work for as well. Even if you already have children, it’s crucial to make choices knowing that every decision is not for you, it’s for them as well.
Why It’s Important to Follow Medical Detox as Soon as Possible
If you’re pregnant and using drugs or alcohol, your baby shares the same bloodstream. This dramatically affects the baby in terms of health, survival chances, mental health, and their first few months alive out of the womb.
For example, neonatal abstinence syndrome happens when the baby becomes addicted to a substance in the mother’s womb. Using opioids, drinking alcohol, and even heavily smoking cigarettes can result in the baby forming a chemical dependency. This means the baby’s first few weeks out of the womb might be fraught with withdrawal symptoms. These include:
- Skin conditions
- Nausea and diarrhea
- Excessive heart rate
- Difficulty eating
- Rapid breathing
- Issues sleeping
- Difficulty gaining weight
Each of these can severely impact a baby’s health.
Additionally, many substances can actively harm your baby. In fact, DrugAbuse.gov shows that exposure to drugs like opioids or cocaine can increase risk of a stillbirth or birth defect by over 220%. If you want a happy, healthy baby, it’s crucial to quit and as quickly as possible. However, you shouldn’t do it alone.
Seeking Out Medical Detox
Withdrawal can be a physically taxing process involving muscle cramping, tremors, and dehydration-causing diarrhea and vomiting. It’s crucial to seek out medical assistance and monitoring to ensure that you and the baby move through detox as safely as possible. In some cases, you may be moved to a detox with Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program, where you’re given buprenorphine or a similar drug to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
In most cases, it’s important for an expecting mother to reduce or quit substance use as much as possible so that the baby isn’t born chemically dependent. The woman and her doctor will have to decide together what the best approach is based on risks. These risks will heavily depend on weight, level of substance abuse, and how far along the pregnancy is.
Seeking Out Treatment
It’s important to seek out a Christian Substance Abuse Treatment Program as soon as possible. Simply going through detox will not give anyone the tools to stay clean or sober throughout a pregnancy. This is difficult, both because many institutions are hesitant to treat pregnant women and because pregnancy makes adjusting behavior more difficult. Why? Increased levels of hormone production result in mood swings, depression, and debilitating physical conditions. Most people would be driven to use more, not less, during this time. So, any woman seeking out recovery treatment during this period is doing twice the work – battling her addiction and her own body.
Here, it’s crucial to:
- Seek out behavioral therapies. Some organizations will offer special tracts for women who are pregnant or nursing, with custom support for a pregnant woman’s needs and emotions. Here, it may be important to seek out a women-only recovery program, giving the freedom to discuss and integrate pregnancy and its problems into the recovery.
- Reconnect with God. Taking time to attend church, seeking out a Christian recovery program, and attending self-help groups like 12-Step can help improve spiritual health, resolve, and motivation to recover. Having God by your side as you struggle can be immensely helpful in any situation. He will not abandon anyone just because they have sinned, and the situation of being pregnant and unwed, while addicted, is not a special one. God will be there for you.
If you or a loved one is in the dire straits of being pregnant and addicted to a substance, it’s crucial to get help. While doing so means taking steps to detox safely, finding recovery options suitable for a pregnant woman, and integrating safety in terms of exercise, medical help, and nutritional assistance into that recovery, recovery is possible. It will mean working harder, but taking the steps to get clean and sober will give you and your baby the best chance for a good future.