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Meth Use During Pregnancy – Effects, Risks, And Addiction Treatment Options

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Meth use of any form during pregnancy, whether it be smoking, snorting, swallowing, or injecting the drug, can cause significant harm to both the unborn child and mother.

For the mother, these risks include death during or after childbirth and for the child, abnormal brain development, behavioral problems, and developmental problems with vital organs.

Many women use alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs with meth, behaviors that can increase the side effects and dangers even more.

The Dangers Of Methamphetamine Use During Pregnancy

A recent study found that methamphetamine use among pregnant women is on the rise, with increases particularly high in the Midwest, the West, and the South.

When a woman uses meth, the drug can pass through her bloodstream into the placenta and to her baby. In certain cases this may cause death. Because of this, no amount of crystal meth is safe for a woman who is pregnant.

If a woman is prescribed methamphetamine for medical reasons, and is pregnant, she should notify her healthcare provider immediately.

While misusing prescription methamphetamine (Desoxyn) can be dangerous, illegally produced meth can be even more so. This is because illicit meth, also known as crystal meth and ice, can be far more potent. 

Use of this drug during pregnancy can negatively impact the development of a child’s:

  • brain
  • heart
  • kidneys
  • spinal cord

Other serious risks and side effects of meth use during pregnancy include:

  • cleft palate
  • low birth weight 
  • placental abruption
  • premature birth

A newborn may also be overly sensitive to certain types of stimulation, such as human touch and light. Children with these problems frequently have coordination problems and tremors as well. 

Babies who are exposed to meth in the womb may also have increased levels of lethargy, stress, and a poorer quality of movement. Some may even develop withdrawal symptoms. 

Additional dangers of using meth while pregnant include:

Abnormal Brain Development

When compared to children who weren’t exposed to meth, one study found that exposed children had differences in the structure of the brain’s white matter and the rate by which the brain matured.

Researchers have theorized that children may have delayed developmental milestones due to this abnormal brain development.

Behavioral Problems

Taking meth can cause mental health disorders, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities. 

New research suggests that using this drug during pregnancy may result in a child developing anxiety, depression, and moodiness. These mood problems were shown to surface by age three. 

Research suggests that school-aged children may also have higher rates of problems with self-control and executive function as well. By age five, children who were exposed to meth were also more likely to have symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

HIV/AIDS And Hepatitis B And C

Taking meth can decrease a woman’s inhibitions and make her more prone to risk-taking behaviors, such as unsafe sex. Unprotected sex could expose a woman to HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C. The risk of contracting these potentially deadly diseases can be higher if the drug is injected.

If a mother contracts these diseases before or during pregnancy, there is a chance the baby could contract them as well. A mother can transmit HIV during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. Hepatitis B and C can also be passed from mother to child during birth.

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Poor Overall Health

Meth can suppress a person’s appetite and lead to malnutrition. This could result in the child not receiving the vital nutrients it needs while in the womb or in the mother’s breast milk.

A person may not sleep for long periods of time while on the drug, which could also be damaging to a pregnancy. Once a child’s born, this sleep deprivation may compromise a woman’s ability to safely take care of her child. 

Dangers For The Mother

In addition to the risks that accompany methamphetamine use at any time, such as addiction and overdose, a women who uses the drug while pregnant has an increased risk of dying during or after birth. 

It also increases a woman’s risk for preeclampsia, specifically the most severe form, eclampsia. 

Women who have preeclampsia have a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke later on in life as well. The risk of other lifelong health complications, such as blood transfusion, cardiac arrest, and heart failure can also rise.

Some studies have found that meth use can raise a woman’s risk of developing gestational hypertension as well.

Meth Use And Breastfeeding

Women who are breastfeeding and use meth may pass the drug to their child. Levels of amphetamines, such as meth, in breast milk have been found to be 2.8 to 7.5 times higher than amounts found in the mother’s plasma. 

Children who consume breast milk from mothers who use this drug have been shown to have higher rates of agitation, crying, and irritability. 

The drug can decrease the amount of milk a woman produces. Even more, even if a baby is born full-term, they may have problems that normally affect premature babies, such as difficulty sucking and swallowing.

Meth Treatment Programs For Pregnant Women

Enrolling in a meth treatment program can help a pregnant woman stop meth use so that her and her baby are protected from these risks.

Specialized treatment programs for pregnant women who are addicted to meth or other drugs deliver compassionate care that is targeted to the unique needs of expectant mothers. 

The could include prenatal care, parenting classes, nutritional classes, therapy, and counseling. Aftercare programs may also be provided to help a woman stay inspired and focused on her recovery after graduation. 

Contact Vertava Health today for more info on meth addiction and treatment options.



American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — Methamphetamine Use in Women of Reproductive Age

American Journal of Public Health — Amphetamine- and Opioid-Affected Births: Incidence, Outcomes, and Costs, United States, 2004–2015

CBS News — Mom’s meth use during pregnancy causes kids’ behavioral problems

National Institute on Drug Abuse — Methamphetamine: What are the risks of methamphetamine misuse during pregnancy?

Live Science — Pregnant Mom’s Meth Use Shows Up in Baby’s Moods

North Dakota Department of Health — Methamphetamine Use During Pregnancy

npr — Another Drug Crisis: Methamphetamine Use By Pregnant Women

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV