How Substance Abuse While Pregnant Can Lead to Alcohol Withdrawal in Babies

There are many thousands of people across the UK suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction; this can have a detrimental impact on not only their life but also the lives of those around them; more so if they happen to be pregnant. If a mother abuses substances while pregnant, the infant will likely experience drug or alcohol withdrawal when he or she is born. This can be extremely distressing for the newborn, as the baby will experience extreme discomfort and go through many of the common withdrawal symptoms that an adult would go through.

Guilt Will Stay with Me

Hundreds of infants in the United Kingdom are born with drug and alcohol withdrawal due to their mothers having an addiction. However, one facility is working with these mothers and their children to keep them together while the mother goes through detoxification.  ‘Rachel’ is one mother who had been abusing heroin during her pregnancy. She had been the victim of domestic abuse for ten years; she was forced into prostitution, which then resulted in her developing a drug addiction. “You know you are carrying a baby, and it’s the wrong thing to do, but you still do it. It’s a lifestyle. Then one day you wake up and realise you have a habit. I feel guilty every day of my life, and that guilt will stay with me,” said Rachel.

Better Chance at Recovery

Rachel is sadly just one of many mothers who has given birth to a baby who would then go on to suffer from drug or alcohol withdrawal. NHS figures show that in 2014-2015, 1,087 infants in England were born addicted to a substance, while in Scotland, between 2012-2015, 987 babies were affected. Common symptoms among these addicted youngsters include blotchy skin, uncontrollable tremors and high-pitched crying.

It is common for a child such as Rachel’s to be taken into care or looked after by a family member; however, many experts are insisting that moving forward, the mother and child have a better chance of recovering if they are permitted to go through detox together. Charity Trevi House, which is based in Plymouth, offers this service and is the only remaining mother and baby drug and alcohol rehab programme in the whole of the UK. The women who live in the centre are adamant that they will do better in regards to detoxing while they remain with their child.

Greatly Benefitted Many Mothers

‘Louise’ found herself battling a heroin addiction when she was just a teenager, subsequently having her children taken into care. “I just wanted to kill myself when they were taken away. I did attempt it numerous times,” explained Louise. Nevertheless, now that she has her son with her throughout the detox programme, she says this has benefitted her greatly. “To have him with me is amazing. They tried to take him from birth.”

Another woman known as ‘Emma’ went through the programme last year, which meant that she could keep her twins. She said, “It’s actually heartbreaking that so many women like me are just written off: ‘Oh well, you’re a drug addict so you can’t have your child’.” she says. “Something has got to change. The women who I have met in this place were phenomenal. Some of the stories I’ve heard, some of the things some of these women have been through, you wouldn’t imagine it in your darkest nightmare. They didn’t deserve that. People deserve a chance; they deserve help, and their children deserve it.”

Accurate Insight

In the period between December 2013 and December 2015, 65% of children left the clinic with their mother, who had completed a detox to successfully overcome their addiction. Nonetheless, despite this success, some experts do not believe that removing the mother and child from society will solve the issue. Some of these experts are worried that the programme does not give the mothers an accurate insight as to what life will be like; they fear that the mothers may relapse as they have become so used to having around-the-clock support.

The chief executive of Trevi House, Hannah Shead, explained, “Every mother here says she wouldn’t be able to do recovery without her child. She wouldn’t be able to focus on what she needed to do. And for the child to be separated; they would either be in the care system, they might be with family members, but they would not be with their mums. So, keeping them together is better for mother and the child.”

Looking Forward to a Sober Life

Rachel will have completed the rehabilitation programme in a couple of months, and she said that she is looking forward to a sober life going forward. She added, “I don’t blame partners, I don’t blame anybody for what happened to me. I have to take responsibility for it because it was my choice to take drugs. I will never forgive myself, but I’m using that guilt for strength because living in the past would put me back to square one.”

Overcoming Addiction

Overcoming any addiction is extremely difficult, especially if you are in the same situation as these mothers who abused drugs during their pregnancy. However, all hope is not lost; here at Addiction Helper, we can assist you in overcoming your addiction.

Our staff and counsellors are friendly and will ensure that you feel fully supported at all times. If you require any further information, contact us today, and we will be more than happy to assist you.

Source: Born addicts: The babies starting life in rehab (BBC)

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