Pregnancy and Substance Use: Risks and Harm Reduction Strategies
The use of any substance can pose a risk to both mother and baby during pregnancy due to their effects on the body and on important physiological processes. It is estimated that between 10% to 30% of pregnant women use one or more substances, leading to serious negative consequences. To reduce the risks associated with substance use during pregnancy, pregnant women should be provided with evidence-based information on the potential harms and effective strategies for reduction.
Risks Associated With Substance Use During Pregnancy
There are a number of known risks associated with substance use during pregnancy, including:
- Preterm birth: Substance use during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of preterm birth (delivery before 37 weeks of gestation).
- Low birth weight: Substance use during pregnancy can put the baby at risk for low birth weight, a condition associated with increased risk of several health problems in the newborn.
- Birth defects: Substance use during pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects and certain neurological problems in babies.
- Complications during delivery: Substance use during pregnancy can lead to complications during labor and delivery, such as prolonged labor and increased risk of resuscitation or medical intervention.
Harm Reduction Strategies for Substance Use During Pregnancy
There are several effective strategies for reducing the risk associated with substance use during pregnancy, including:
- Quitting: Quitting the use of any substance is the best way to reduce the risk associated with substance use during pregnancy. If a pregnant woman is not able to quit, there are other strategies that can help reduce her risks.
- Reducing frequency and intensity: Reducing the frequency and intensity of substance use can help to reduce the risk of harm to the mother and baby.
- Healthy lifestyle: Eating a healthy diet, getting enough rest, and engaging in exercise can help pregnant women manage their cravings and reduce the risk of harm to the baby.
- Support: Finding support through family, friends, or counseling can help pregnant women reduce their risk of substance use during pregnancy.
Pregnant women should be aware of the significant risks associated with substance use during pregnancy and utilize the harm reduction strategies described above to help minimize those risks.