Reducing Harm for Addicted Moms & Their Babies
The talk about drug addiction and who is harmed stops when you mention addiction and babies. You can try to keep children away from drugs, but what about babies, either during pregnancy or in infancy? Do you try to protect them with laws or does that only scare addicted women away from seeking help?
The studies about addictive drugs and infants run the full spectrum from devastating damage to no lasting harm. As with most things in life, the results depend on the drugs involved and how they are used.
Studies show babies exposed to meth had lower cognitive scores when they reached school age, with difficulty completing tasks and organizing work. The negative effects of alcohol use in pregnancy are well documented, although some people think a little drinking is OK. Heavy drinking and alcoholism can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, causing facial abnormalities and developmental delays, among other problems.
Babies affected by opiates, born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), are another story and legislation in Tennessee is directed at them. When babies are exposed to opiates during pregnancy, they are born in withdrawal. They can be treated and detoxed much the same way that an adult is. It’s unpleasant, but usually results in no lasting effects or threat of relapse as it can for adults.
In Tennessee, the legislature has passed a bill that would allow the prosecution of women who used narcotics during pregnancy that resulted in harm to their child. That bill is now before Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam for his signature or veto. Proponents say that the law would protect babies from being born addicted and from the problems of opiate withdrawal right after birth. Opponents say that the law is vague and could result in assault charges against any woman with a poor pregnancy outcome. It is also likely to make some women choose abortion or ignore all prenatal care to avoid scrutiny of their drug problems. In addition, other concerns known to be harmful during pregnancy (alcohol and smoking) are not addressed by the bill.
Struggling with addiction is hard enough and made much more so when you have to consider a pregnancy. Seeking help during pregnancy is safer for everyone. If you know someone struggling with substance abuse, Lakeview Health can help. Contact us at 866.704.7692 or through the chat button. We can find a way to get you help.