Substance Abuse During Pregnancy: Overview

February 7, 2023

Pregnancy can be a wonderful time in a woman’s life.  This is typically a time when she becomes more focused on her own health to support the health of her unborn baby.  She may start to become more conscious of what she is putting into her body and how that may affect the child she’s carrying.

However, if the mother is addicted to drugs or alcohol, she may not have the same focus and possibly feel hopeless.  She may also have some concerning questions.  Is help available for substance abuse while pregnant and is it truly safe?  What does that help even look like?  Is it really possible to get free from the grip of the addicting substance without harming the baby?  How does she learn to live sober?

The answer to those questions is encouraging because help is available for pregnant women who struggle with substance abuse.  Over the years, more and more rehabilitation programs have begun to incorporate services for pregnant women.

Over the next few weeks, we will be doing a five-part series on “Substance Abuse During Pregnancy” that will cover the following topics: “Dangers and Risks of Abusing Substances during Pregnancy”, “Detoxing Defined”, “Detoxing for Pregnant Women”, and “Help for Pregnant Women”.  In this first post, we will educate you on how many pregnant women abuse substances.  Make sure to come back as we cover the above topics.

So, how many pregnant women are actually abusing substances?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2011 and 2013, 1 in 10 pregnant women reported alcohol use and 1 in 33 reported binge drinking (defined as consuming 4 or more drinks on one occasion) in the past 30 days.  According to the study, drinking prevalence was highest among pregnant women 35-44 years of age who were college educated and unmarried.

In addition, according to a national survey from 2012:

  • 9% of pregnant women used illegal drugs
  • 5% of pregnant women drank alcohol
  • 9% of pregnant women smoked cigarettes


That amounts to over 380,000 babies being exposed to illicit substances, over 550,000 babies being exposed to alcohol, and over 1 million babies being exposed to tobacco while in the womb.  Although these statistics are alarming, they also show us something important… if you find yourself in this group of pregnant women, you are not alone.  Help is available for you.

A newborn baby’s life is a time for celebration, just as much as each day of sobriety.  Pregnant women can enjoy this fresh journey in life with newfound sobriety and continued recovery.  Comprehensive care, along with a nurturing and supportive environment, offers the baby and mother the best chances for a full recovery.  At Options Health, we would be happy to come alongside you and connect you with the best treatment and rehabilitation centers in our area.

For overall parenting help, we have a wonderful program to help women as they navigate motherhood.  Earn While You Learn (EWYL) is a free program that provides education, emotional support, and material resources to expectant mothers through the toddler years of their baby’s life.  Once enrolled in EWYL, you will be connected with a mentor to guide you through an amazing curriculum of parenting classes where you earn credits to be spent in our Care Closet; where you can get diapers, wipes, baby clothes, baby furniture, and more!

Are you a father?  If so, we have an awesome program for you too!  FIT (Fathers In Training) is a free program that will challenge you to be the best father you can be by walking alongside you through our skill-building fatherhood classes and mentorship.

If you are interested in either of these free programs, please contact us today!

Options Health is a safe place where you can confidentially come and discuss sexual health, pregnancy, and relationship issues with one of our patient advocates.  Feel free to contact us today to take advantage of our free services, including pregnancy testing, ultrasound, pregnancy options consultation, STD testing, and abortion aftercareCall us or text us to schedule an appointment. We are here for you and ready to listen!