Cocaine Use While Pregnant

Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug that can present serious risks for both the mother and fetus.1 Past estimates have suggested there being as many as 750,000 cocaine-exposed pregnancies each year.1

This article will discuss the effects of cocaine use during pregnancy, what can happen when a person stops using cocaine while pregnant, and cocaine detox and treatment options available during this critical time.

Effects of Cocaine Use on Pregnancy

Cocaine addiction during pregnancy is a serious health concern that can adversely affect both mother and baby. The health impacts of cocaine use during pregnancy include possible complications both during pregnancy and at the time of delivery. Additionally, there may be some more subtle neurodevelopmental concerns for children exposed to cocaine in utero, which in some cases may persist as they grow older.1,2

Cocaine use during pregnancy can lead to the following:

Effects on the Mother
Women who use cocaine while pregnant are at risk for: 1,2,3,4

  • Hyperthermia.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Migraines.*
  • Seizures.
  • Stroke.
  • Excited delirium.
  • Heart attack.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Liver rupture.
  • Reduced blood flow to the brain and heart.

*Migraines are common during pregnancy due to increased estrogen, but cocaine use can exacerbate them.2

Prenatal Complications
The following are more likely to occur when a woman uses cocaine during pregnancy:1,4

  • Premature rupture of the amniotic sac
  • Placental abruption (separation from uterine wall prior to birth)
  • Hypertensive crises (dangerously elevated blood pressure)
  • Miscarriage

Delivery Complications
Women who use cocaine while pregnant are at greater risk for:1,4

  • Premature labor.
  • Difficult delivery.

Effects on the Baby
Babies born to mothers who use cocaine during pregnancy are at higher risk for:1,4

  • Low birth weight.
  • Small head circumference.
  • Shorter length at birth.

Long-Term Effects on Child
As children get older, they may be at a greater risk for developing:1

  • Behavioral issues (such as difficulty with self-regulation).
  • Subtle cognitive performance issues, including deficits in information processing, attention, language, and memory.

Cocaine addiction can also interfere with pregnancy in other ways. Women with substance use disorders often experience:5

  • Less than adequate prenatal care.
  • Poor nutrition.
  • Chronic medical problems.

These additional variables can contribute to peripartum complications and ultimately influence health outcomes for both parent and child.5

Stopping Cocaine Use During Pregnancy

Stopping cocaine use during pregnancy can reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery and mitigate some of the adverse health impacts on the mother and baby.5 Although cocaine withdrawal is not usually life-threatening, pregnancy does pose a special risk due to the need to keep both the mother and the fetus safe.6

Though stimulant withdrawal rarely presents immediate medical dangers, some people may be at risk for certain withdrawal-related complications. Occasionally, these can include cocaine-related medical issues, such as:6

  • Seizures.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Heart attack.
  • Spontaneous abortion.

Should issues such as these arise, medical management may be needed.

Medical detox is an available form of treatment that can help a person safely stop cocaine use while pregnant.6 Seeking detox and professional care when quitting cocaine during pregnancy is important, as it allows for the initiation or continuation of comprehensive medical care and other psychosocial supports during this vulnerable time.7

Cocaine Detox for Pregnant Women

Medical detox programs that specialize in treating pregnant women are available. Like traditional detox programs, these programs offer:

  • Medical oversight.
  • Therapy.
  • Support groups.
  • Medications, when appropriate.

Inpatient detox programs include 24/7 care by medical staff who monitor vital signs of both the mother and the fetus and treat withdrawal symptoms.

In addition to what is offered in traditional medical detox programs, detox facilities that specialize in treating pregnant women should offer services to address the unique needs of women and their babies. Such services include:6

  • Staff with specialized training in treating pregnant women with addictions and knowledge of the risks and benefits of medications during pregnancy.
  • Access to prenatal medical care, either in the detox facility or by providing transportation to an off-site obstetrician’s office.
  • Education on pregnancy, childbirth, newborn care, and parenting.
  • Case management to ensure women have access to stable housing, childcare, and other services they may need.

Once detox is complete, pregnant women may benefit from continuing treatment by transitioning to another level of addiction treatment, such as inpatient or outpatient rehab. Recovery is a process and there is always a chance of relapse, especially as women enter the postpartum period.5

Remaining in treatment for an adequate amount of time is important. This length of time will depend on the severity of each patient’s problems and needs.8 Some patients may find a short-term drug detox is adequate while others may stay for 30 days of rehab or long-term addiction treatment.

If you or someone you love needs help detoxing from cocaine during pregnancy, treatment is available. Medical detox programs offer a safe and supportive way to help a person stop using cocaine while pregnant.

At Laguna Treatment Center, our Orange County inpatient rehab, we may accept pregnant patients at the discretion of the medical director. Outpatient treatment may also be an option during pregnancy. This type of rehab allows a patient to reside at home while attending treatment.

American Addiction Centers operates several facilities throughout the U.S. and many of them offer outpatient drug and alcohol rehab. Compare our rehab facilities now to determine which ones offer the levels of treatment and services you need.

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