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Babies Born To Meth | The Effects Of Meth Abuse During Pregnancy

Published on January 18, 2021
Meth baby mother holding her newborn baby

Methamphetamine, or meth, is a highly addictive stimulant drug. Some people abuse it by smoking it, injecting it, snorting it, or swallowing it in pill form. Others take the pill form as prescribed by a doctor to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

Like many drugs, meth poses serious health risks if used during pregnancy

The Effects Of Meth Abuse During Pregnancy

Methamphetamine use during pregnancy can harm both the mother and the baby, especially if the mother is abusing meth rather than taking it as prescribed.

Risks To The Mother

People abuse meth because the drug can cause a rush of energy, confidence, and euphoria (intense joy). However, it can also cause life-threatening side effects such as:

  • loss of appetite, which can lead to malnutrition 
  • high blood pressure
  • heart attack 
  • stroke
  • lung, kidney, and liver damage
  • bloodborne diseases (such as Hepatitis C and HIV) from sharing drug paraphernalia or having unprotected sex while high

These problems can harm not only the mother but also the developing fetus.

In addition, many women who abuse methamphetamine also struggle with other forms of drug abuse, such as alcohol abuse. When you abuse multiple substances, you face an even higher risk of the problems listed above. 

Risks To The Baby

When pregnant women use meth, the drug can cross the placenta and reach the fetus. Prenatal exposure to meth causes an increased risk of the following health issues and birth defects:

  • premature birth (delivery before week 37 of pregnancy)
  • low birth weight
  • small head size
  • brain and heart abnormalities 
  • cleft palate
  • vision problems
  • malformed ribs
  • delayed physical growth
  • placental abruption (separation of the placenta from the uterus), which can deprive the fetus of oxygen and essential nutrients and cause a fatal amount of bleeding in the mother
  • sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

Also, if a woman uses meth near the end of her pregnancy, her baby may become physically dependent on the drug and experience neonatal abstinence syndrome after birth. This withdrawal syndrome can cause symptoms such as:

  • irritability
  • trouble eating
  • poor muscle control or tight muscles
  • trouble breathing
  • seizures

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your baby’s health care provider right away. With proper medical care, the symptoms will typically fade within a few weeks. 

Risks To Toddlers & Children

Finally, toddlers and children who were exposed to meth in utero (also called “meth babies”) may face a higher risk of:

Meth Addiction Treatment Options

To prevent the above problems, it’s important to stop using meth. Quitting the drug at any point in your pregnancy can significantly improve your and your baby’s health. 

However, if you try to quit meth on your own, you may experience severe withdrawal symptoms that threaten both you and your baby. That’s why you should seek professional help at a substance abuse treatment program. 

These programs offer recovery-focused services such as:

  • supervised medical detox, where a team of medical professionals can help you slowly and safely stop using meth
  • peer support groups, where you can connect with other people who are struggling with meth use or other forms of drug use
  • mental health counseling, where you can learn important coping skills to prevent relapse

To learn more about treatment options for methamphetamine abuse and addiction, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist today. 

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.
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