There is a plethora of information on the internet about how to prepare to be a mother. Topics range from being psychologically prepared to having your home ready before the baby arrives. Let’s not forget the great number of people who will willingly (and sometimes without being asked) offer tips, suggestions, and hacks about how to get ready for a baby. It can be too much information at times. Yet, there is limited information to be found for pregnant women in recovery.
We know that pregnant women face stigma and discrimination, and many are fearful when looking for substance use help. Society and even some medical professionals look down on mothers-to-be who are misusing substances. It can also be challenging to find treatment for pregnant women, or it can be too expensive or too far away for many women to consider substance use treatment.
If you are an expectant mom who needs substance use recovery during pregnancy, we provide guidelines and advice while preparing to be a mom in recovery.
Expectant Moms With Substance Use Disorders
Every substance the mother consumes is a substance the unborn fetus consumes. All have harmful, adverse effects on the fetus and delivered infant. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports an estimated 5 percent of pregnant women use one or more addictive substances.
Below, MedlinePlus relays the substances and what harm it brings to the fetus.
Tobacco. Smoking passes nicotine, carbon monoxide, and other harmful chemicals to your baby. It raises the risk of your baby being born too early, too small, or with birth defects.
Alcohol. Despite what you may read, no amount of alcohol is safe for a woman to drink during pregnancy. If you drink alcohol when pregnant, your child could be born with lifelong fetal alcohol syndrome disorders (FASD).
Illegal drugs. Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamines, might cause underweight babies, birth defects, or withdrawal symptoms after birth.
Prescription drugs. If you are taking prescription medication, please consult with your obstetrician about how to stop taking them while pregnant. Weaning yourself off the drug can be dangerous to you and the fetus. It is not a good idea to take anyone else’s prescription drugs before consulting with your doctor.
Despite the startling facts above, there is good news. There are positive, healthy ways to find and enter addiction recovery and information about how to prepare to be a mom.
How to Prepare to be a Mother in Recovery
Many substance use recovery programs provide therapies and programs to help clients reach and maintain concrete steps on the journey to be substance-free. The Palm Beach Institute offers several good options for soon-to-be-mothers, such as:
- Family support and programs
- Solution-focused therapy
- Dual diagnosis
- Gender-specific therapy
- Family programming
- Life skills
- Nutritional services
- 12-step programs
These services, support groups, and therapies are beneficial because they provide valuable insight, action plans, and skills to propel each client to reach and maintain sobriety.
Expectant mothers might expect to learn how to shop for more nutritious foods that benefit both mom and baby, learn how to create and stick to a family budget, and find positive ways of dealing with stress. They may also learn how to talk with partners and family members about your needs and wants.
Soon-to-be mothers may also meet with other women in women-only support groups, work with a therapist on positive, healthy ways of coping with the “baby blues” or postpartum depression, and/or work through family issues in family-based meetings.
What is Recovery?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines recovery as “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”
Here’s how expectant mothers can prepare for a baby in recovery:
Support: Keep attending support group meetings where you feel you best fit. Listen, and don’t be afraid to share. The website HealthyWomen offers some great insight and resources for pregnant women in recovery.
Healthy Living: Make and follow a grocery list that includes healthy, nutritious foods and beverages that benefit both you and the baby. Eat small meals throughout the day and evening to maintain strength. Plus, it promotes better sleep.
Exercise: Make time daily to get some easy exercise. Go outside and take a walk. Walk the dog, if you have one. Go online or search streaming video services for prenatal workouts. Give one or two a try.
Parent Education: Find and take a parenting class. These classes are good resources for every aspect of parenting, from prenatal care to after the baby is delivered.
Get a Recovery Coach: If you have a Recovery Coach, lean on that person when you need to. If you don’t have one and would like one, ask your case manager at the treatment center you entered if they can help. A therapist is also a good source when you need to talk to someone about recovery challenges.
Take It Easy: Take one day at a time. There is no rush to get everything done before the baby arrives. It might be best to create a to-do list and just do those things on it. Also, be sure to pamper yourself. Take a warm bath, get a massage, visit the beauty salon. Sometimes, taking care of yourself is all it takes to feel better and more in control.
Keeping that in mind, there are solid suggestions below to help you stay on a self-directed life plan, strive to reach your full potential, and be the best mother you can be to your unborn, and later to your baby.
A healthy, happy mother is the baby’s food and comfort source. She is the first person the infant sees upon arrival, the one person they depend on most for the first months of their life, and she is the child’s mom for life.
Ask For Help – Get Help
There will be many days and times when you need help. Help to prepare the home, help to prepare meals, help to deal with the physical and hormonal changes in your body, and help to cope with being a soon-to-be-mother in recovery. Don’t let these challenges instances deter you from seeing and obtaining help when you need it. Call, text, or email and ask for help when you need it.
The Palm Beach Institute has recovery programs that can be of significant help for you. Gender-specific group therapy sessions, nutrition education, family support, and individual therapies are available.
Relapse prevention is another useful tool for people in recovery. If you have been through addiction treatment, you have created a relapse prevention plan. When you feel the urge to use substances again, go back and follow the steps in the plan. Find a support group near you.
Pregnancy can be a special time for you. Whether or not you are starting a family, preparing to be a mother brings unique challenges. If you need help, ask for help. It will be there.