Addiction is an illness that is notoriously difficult to beat, and some women cannot find the strength to overcome their addictive behaviour even when they are pregnant. Taking drugs or drinking alcohol while pregnant can affect the life of the unborn baby and can hamper its development. However, such is the power of addiction that some women cannot see past their need for the substance; even if that means putting the life of their unborn child at risk.
A BBC investigation has found that one in every five hundred babies born in England is addicted to legal or illegal drugs taken by their mothers while pregnant. The figures were obtained from seventy-two NHS hospital trusts on the back of a Freedom of Information request. Nevertheless, health experts were quick to point out that the numbers are decreasing.
The figures were taken from the records of babies born between 2011 and 2015 and showed that the numbers born with substance addictions vary from region to region. Bedford Hospital recorded that one baby in every one hundred born was addicted to drugs, but in Leicester General, the number of babies born with a substance addiction was just one in five thousand.
Lisa Batty is a mum who took heroin during her pregnancies and gave birth to four babies who were all addicted to the drug. She said, â€œI didn’t care that my kids were addicted to drugs, I was more concerned about where I was getting my next fix from. I know it’s selfish, but that’s how it felt at the time.â€
Lisa said that she remembers seeing her children going through withdrawal from heroin. They were shaking and trembling, and she said, â€œI admit I was a bad mum, but I’ve turned my life around now.â€
Lisa is now working with Narcotics Anonymous to help other people who are addicted to drugs.
Despite the shocking statistics, the good news is that the figures are falling. Specialist midwife, Susan Flynn from Leeds, who works in close collaboration with drug addicted mothers, said, â€œI have seen the numbers begin to fall slightly in the past three years. I don’t think we can say there is one single reason for the decline, but maybe the message is getting out there that it’s not right to take drugs or alcohol while you’re pregnant.â€
She does not agree with those who say that children should be taken away from mothers who are addicted to drugs because she thinks that these women should be given the chance to beat their addictions and turn their lives around.
Liz Butcher, who works for Public Health England, believes that it is necessary that drug-addicted pregnant women are given the right care and support to ensure that the risks to the unborn baby are minimised.
Consequences of Taking Drugs While Pregnant
While most people are aware that taking drugs while pregnant is very dangerous for the unborn baby, the women who are pregnant are often unable to quit unless they get professional help. Taking drugs while pregnant poses significant health risks to the baby and can even result in miscarriage or stillbirth. Babies who do survive may be affected by both physical and mental health problems. Common problems affecting babies born to drug-addicted mothers include low blood sugar, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle spasms, tremors, breathing difficulties, learning and behavioural difficulties, low birth weight, and growth problems. Mothers who inject drugs are also risking infections such as hepatitis and HIV, which could pass to the baby.
Drug-addicted women who discover they are pregnant should reach out for help as soon as possible. Specialist drug rehabilitation centres can help in terms of providing care and support for those who want to kick the habit for the sake of their children.
Source: Hundreds of babies born drug-dependentÂ (BBC)