When we think of a new mother giving birth to her child, we may have a certain image in our minds of what that experience looks like. However, it's important to recognize that every woman's childbirth experience is unique, depending on various factors such as overall health, background, socioeconomic status, race, and culture. Not all women are in top physical health when they become pregnant, and some may face the reality of a stillbirth, miscarriage, or abortion. Additionally, many expecting mothers struggle with addiction, which is a complex issue that must be addressed not only for the mothers but also for the health and well-being of their children.
Why mental health care is so important for pregnant women in active addiction
Women who are predisposed to certain health conditions or have a history of addiction are more likely to pass those traits on to their children. Moreover, pregnant women grappling with active addiction may be reluctant to trust healthcare providers due to the stigma associated with substance abuse and alcoholism. This is why access to mental health care is crucial during pregnancy and beyond.
Just as it's necessary to address physical health issues during pregnancy, addressing the mother's mental health is just as crucial. Pregnancy involves a lot of hormonal and physical changes that can affect the mother's overall mood and functioning. If the mother experiences stress, depressive symptoms, or trauma, it can also affect the baby's development. This is why certain foods, alcohol, and medications are not recommended during pregnancy. However, for a woman who is already addicted to drugs or alcohol, this complicates things, but there are ways to help.
Resources for support and recovery
Collaborating with a doctor, seeing a therapist, or joining an AA or addiction support group could be resources that support the mother's journey to recovery while ensuring a healthy birth. Mental health is health, and ignoring mental health symptoms could be detrimental to both the baby’s and the mother's overall well-being. Good mental health practices include self-care, healthy eating, consistent exercise, adequate sleep, socializing, and utilizing support systems.
Approximately 10-15 percent of new mothers experience postpartum mood disorders. Women with a history of substance abuse have an even higher likelihood of developing postpartum depression or anxiety. Access to good health care is imperative for all pregnant people, and for those new moms struggling with addiction, non-judgmental health care can be a lifeline.
Health care – including therapy – is confidential, meaning whatever is shared in session is only between the client and the therapist. This allows individuals to explore feelings and share experiences in a safe space. A competent and effective therapist has no intention of being judgmental. They aim to build a strong rapport so the individual in their care feels supported, affirmed, and validated.
Psychotherapy also helps people learn coping skills and strategies for navigating life. This kind of support can be more than a lifeline for a pregnant patient in active addiction – it can be lifesaving.
Breaking the stigma of addiction while pregnant
Individuals with substance use and alcohol addictions often have a history of childhood trauma, abuse, or neglect. Poor attachment styles or lack of positive role models can hinder their ability to form healthy relationships and make healthy choices as they grow. This puts them at a higher risk of engaging in risky behaviors and becoming addicts. However, addiction is a disease that can be treated. Many resources are available to support individuals with addiction, such as support groups, various therapies, and medication.
Due to cultural stigma, addiction often carries a significant amount of shame for those who struggle with this disease. This shame can be even more pronounced for new mothers in recovery, as they may feel helpless to provide a better life for their children. However, acknowledging the problem and seeking solutions with the help of mental health professionals is essential. It's important to recognize that addressing addiction is also addressing mental health.
Bringing children into this world comes with numerous challenges, such as limited access to healthcare, costly childcare, and housing issues. However, despite these challenges, raising a new life can bring limitless positive outcomes for both the child and the new mother. For a pregnant mother who battles addiction, there may be several hurdles to overcome, but with motivation, education, and available resources, she and her child can have a fulfilling and healthy life.
If you or someone you know is struggling, we’re here to help.