Drugs and Pregnancy: Questions and Answers for Birthmothers

You may already know that prescription and recreational drugs can pose a variety of hazards. Sometimes the same substances that relax you, energize you, control annoying symptoms, or regulate your mental wellness can also risk addiction, overdose, and other risks. Those downsides can also include potential danger to your unborn child.

As a concerned, responsible birthmother, you need to understand when and how even the most common or routine medications might call for caution. Start by studying these key questions and answers about prescription and recreational drugs and pregnancy.

How Can Recreational Drugs Impact Your Pregnancy?

A variety of recreational drugs can cause health problems for your baby. Dangerous stimulants such as cocaine can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature birth. Amphetamine use can result in birth defects and inadequate prenatal growth. If you use heroin, your newborn baby may suffer from withdrawal symptoms.

Legal recreational drugs can cause problems just as readily as illicit ones. For example, babies of mothers who drink alcohol can develop fetal alcohol syndrome. This syndrome can include both physical disabilities and learning disabilities in addition to neurological, facial, and growth abnormalities.

If you smoke cigarettes during your pregnancy, your habit may pose serious fetal health risks, from exposure to carcinogens to congenital heart defects. Even caffeinated foods and drinks can lead to low birth weight unless you regulate that consumption carefully. Your doctor can advise you on safe caffeine consumption levels.

Certain hallucinogens can complicate pregnancy. Potential dangers can range from premature birth and postnatal withdrawal symptoms to miscarriage. For safety’s sake, steer clear of mind-altering drugs such as ketamine, MDMA, Rohypnol, LSD, and methamphetamine.

How Can Some Prescription Drugs Threaten Your Pregnancy?

When administered under a doctor’s supervision and taken according to instructions, many prescription drugs can help you cope with health issues without harming your developing fetus. In fact, you may find these medications extremely helpful for combating morning sickness, headaches, and other common prenatal complaints.

Unfortunately, some prescription drugs can prove harmful even as they relieve intense pain or other symptoms, especially when abused or misused. One notable example involves the use of opioid drugs. While these drugs have a powerful effect on pain, they can also promote addiction while interfering with clear thought, which may lead to an accidental overdose.

Just as you can become addicted to opioids, your unborn baby may also become addicted in the womb. These drugs may also cause low birth weight or impair your baby’s ability to get into the birthing position before delivery, resulting in a breech birth. Ask your doctor about safe pain-relieving alternatives you can take during your pregnancy.

What Over-the-Counter Medications Can Pregnant Women Take?

Not all health conditions require prescription medication. Birthmothers can take many common over-the-counter drugs that provide the needed relief safely and effectively, with causing harm to the fetus. However, it’s important to talk with your doctor about any medications you currently take or wish to take before continuing or beginning to use, including non-prescription drugs.

Examples of safe over-the-counter drugs include most common antihistamines, anti-constipation and anti-diarrheal drugs, heartburn medications, hemorrhoid creams, and skin ointments containing calamine or hydrocortisone. However, avoid any cold and flu products that label themselves as a multi-symptom solution.

What Hypertension Drugs Can You Safely Take While Pregnant?

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, counts as a serious concern during pregnancy. If you didn’t have hypertension before becoming pregnant, you can still develop a temporary prenatal form of this problem. Prenatal hypertension can cause prenatal growth problems and placental bleeding. It can even be potentially life-threatening.

Your doctor can protect your health, and your baby’s health, by prescribing medication for your hypertension. However, if you already take certain kinds of blood pressure drugs such as renin inhibitors, ACE inhibitors, or angiotensin II receptor blockers, you’ll need to switch to another, pregnancy-safe alternative.

How Should Pregnant Women Approach Mental Health Medications?

Many Americans take medication to help them cope with mental health challenges. As a birth mother, you may find these challenges even tougher as you face additional physical, financial, and societal stresses, as 52 percent of women report suffering from either depression or anxiety while pregnant.

The question of whether to take medications for a mood disorder during pregnancy remains a complex one due to potential fetal risks. For instance, antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may raise the risks for birth defects, premature birth, and heart problems in babies.

If you have a mood disorder, you must work closely with both your obstetrician and your mental health specialist to come up with a satisfactory treatment approach during your pregnancy. In many cases, a birthmother suffering from mild to moderate depression or anxiety can safely taper off of the medication temporarily.

In other cases, however, the benefits of these drugs may actually outweigh prenatal risk factors. Severe depression or anxiety can promote behaviors that place both mother and baby in danger. Don’t feel too surprised if your medical team decides to keep you on your medication to prevent a serious mental or emotional setback.

As you can see, pregnancy imposes a delicate balancing act between the need to support your own health and wellness through medication and the need to protect your unborn child from dangerous substances. Arizona Adoption Help can provide a wealth of resources to help you make healthy choices as you prepare for birth. Contact us to learn more.