Navigating Perinatal Substance Use: Treatment and Recovery

Bringing new life into the world is a journey filled with joy, hope, and anticipation. However, for some expecting mothers, this journey is complicated by the challenges of substance use. Perinatal substance use, which encompasses substance use during pregnancy and the postpartum period, presents unique complexities that require specialized care and support. In this blog, we delve into the issues surrounding perinatal substance use, explore treatment options, and discuss the path to recovery for both mother and child.

Related: Maternal Substance Abuse: The Dangers of Parental Addiction and Empowering Mothers to Embrace Recovery

Understanding Perinatal Substance Use

Perinatal substance use refers to the use of alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, or illicit drugs during pregnancy and the postpartum period. 

In a 2012 US national survey, 5.9% of pregnant women reported illicit drug use, 8.5% acknowledged alcohol consumption, and 15.9% reported cigarette smoking during pregnancy.

Substance use during this critical time can have detrimental effects on both the mother and the developing baby. Among other issues, it increases the risk of:

  • Pregnancy complications
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Developmental delays
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs)
  • Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS)

Factors contributing to perinatal substance use are multifaceted and may include social, economic, psychological, and biological factors. Trauma and underlying mental health conditions are also significant contributors. It’s crucial to recognize that substance use disorder is a medical condition that requires compassionate and evidence-based care.

Related: Overcoming Substance Use Disorders and Common Co-Occurring Mental Health Conditions

Treatment Approaches For Pregnant Women Struggling With Substance Use

Treating perinatal substance use requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the physical, psychological, and social aspects of the disorder. Here are some key components of effective treatment:

  • Prenatal Care: Early and regular prenatal care is essential for identifying substance use issues and mitigating potential risks to both mother and child. Healthcare providers can offer screenings, counseling, and referrals to specialized treatment programs.
  • Gender-Specific Substance Use Treatment: Women often have unique needs and experiences related to substance use, particularly during pregnancy and postpartum. Gender-specific treatment programs recognize and address these specific needs, offering a more tailored and individualized approach to care. By focusing on issues such as trauma, co-occurring mental health disorders, and family dynamics, these programs offer targeted support for women in their recovery journey.
  • Behavioral Therapies: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing are a couple of the behavioral therapies commonly used in the treatment of substance use disorders. These approaches help individuals develop coping skills, address underlying issues, and modify addictive behaviors.
  • Support Services: Pregnant and postpartum women with substance use disorders can benefit from access to support services such as case management, peer support groups, and parenting classes. These services can help alleviate stressors and enhance social support networks.

Recovery and Beyond For New Moms

Recovery from perinatal substance use is a journey that extends beyond pregnancy and childbirth. It involves ongoing support, relapse prevention strategies, and the cultivation of healthy coping mechanisms. Here are some considerations for individuals in recovery:

  • Postpartum Support: The postpartum period can be challenging, and maintaining sobriety requires continued support and resources. Peer support groups, individual therapy, and parenting education programs can be valuable during this time.
  • Parenting Skills: Learning effective parenting skills and building positive parent-child relationships are crucial aspects of recovery. Parenting classes, counseling, and support groups tailored to individuals in recovery can provide valuable guidance and encouragement.
  • Holistic Wellness: Embracing a holistic approach to wellness that encompasses physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being can support long-term recovery. Activities such as exercise, mindfulness practices, and self-care rituals can promote overall health and resilience.
  • Community Involvement: Engaging with supportive communities and advocacy efforts can empower individuals in recovery and reduce feelings of isolation. Peer support networks, recovery organizations, and community-based initiatives play vital roles in sustaining recovery efforts.

Healing For Women and Mothers at Wasatch Crest

Perinatal substance use presents complex challenges that require compassionate and comprehensive care. By addressing the unique needs of pregnant and postpartum individuals with substance use disorders, there can be healthier outcomes for both mothers and babies. Through gender-specific treatment and gender-specific transitional living, alumni support services, and a dedicated, compassionate approach to recovery, Wasatch Crest offers mothers tailored care so they can navigate the journey of parenthood with strength, resilience, and hope.

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