How To Detox From Drugs While Pregnant

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on October 11, 2021

Detoxing from drugs or alcohol during pregnancy can be dangerous for the expectant mother and unborn baby at all stages of development. However, it can be done safely, under proper supervision and monitoring.

Is It Safe To Detox While Pregnant?

Abusing drugs and alcohol during pregnancy is known to cause birth defects, miscarriages, and a number of health risks to both mother and fetus.

Detoxing off drugs or alcohol while pregnant is possible, but should be closely monitored by medical professionals.

Medical detox is a supervised process in which healthcare providers monitor clients and offer medications and supplements to ease withdrawal symptoms and detox as safely as possible.

Detoxing while pregnant should also include a practitioner who is familiar with OB/GYN practices to ensure that any prescribed medications do not result in complications to the pregnancy.

Read more about detoxing from drugs and alcohol

Pregnancy And Complications From Withdrawal

Withdrawal can, in some cases, be dangerous, which is why it may be a good idea for a pregnant woman to undergo detox.

Yet withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, painful, and may cause distress to the mother or fetus.

The length and severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on:

  • the type of substance being abused
  • amount of the substance abused each time
  • timeline of substance abuse
  • the method it is administered (snorting, injecting, etc.)
  • genetic factors
  • health problems

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Stimulant Detox And Withdrawal During Pregnancy

The first two weeks of withdrawal from stimulants (cocaine, Adderall, meth, Ritalin) are the most intense, and then taper down over time.

The majority of stimulant withdrawal symptoms affect a person emotionally and psychologically. This can lead to depression, mood swings, cravings, insomnia, irritability, or suicidal thoughts.

A pregnant person could experience these stimulant withdrawal symptoms more intensely, which is why it is so important to work with a healthcare provider during detox.

Opioid Detox And Withdrawal During Pregnancy

Opioid withdrawal has been described as an awful case of the flu.

Symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:

  • shaking
  • nausea/vomiting
  • runny nose
  • diarrhea
  • chills
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • restlessness

Sudden opioid withdrawal can cause respiratory depression in utero. Oxygen deprivation to the fetus can result in birth defects or even be fatal.

Utilizing a medically supervised detox that includes medication-assisted treatment (MAT) options may be an option for someone who is pregnant and struggling with opioid abuse.

Read more about opioid use during pregnancy

Benzodiazepine Detox And Withdrawal During Pregnancy

Benzodiazepines act as a depressant on the central nervous system (CNS).

Quitting benzos ‘cold turkey’ can result in some uncomfortable side effects, such as:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • sleeplessness
  • irritability
  • seizures
  • increased blood pressure
  • high body temperature

These benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and life-threatening to the pregnant individual and fetus.

Read more about taking benzodiazepines while pregnant

Alcohol Detox And Pregnancy

Individuals who are physically dependent on alcohol run the risk of experiencing hallucinations, confusion, seizures, and deliriousness during alcohol detox.

This condition is called delirium tremens (DTs) and can be fatal.

Other alcohol withdrawal symptoms are:

  • sweats
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • tachycardia
  • fatigue
  • muscle weakness
  • hypertension
  • memory issues
  • cognitive decline
  • irritability

These withdrawal symptoms can place incredible stress on the fetus and expectant parent. These additional factors, coupled with hormonal and physical changes in pregnancy, can be dangerous.

Why Medically Supervised Detox Is Safer For Withdrawal While Pregnant

Having around-the-clock supervision by medical providers can allow individualized planning and care for someone detoxing from drugs or alcohol. Especially if the person is pregnant.

When a person discovers they are pregnant, the immediate reaction may be to stop using any drugs or alcohol.

However, when someone is physically dependent, stopping quickly can put too much stress on the individual and the fetus, resulting in a miscarriage or other distress.

Other factors that may affect the fetus, as a result of substance withdrawal, are dehydration, malnutrition, and loss of vital vitamins and minerals.

In addition, a person experiencing withdrawal is at high risk for suicidal ideation, and having 24-hour supervision may help navigate mental health issues and keep the person safe.

Outpatient medical detoxification may be suggested, under certain circumstances.

Who Will Need Alcohol Detox During Pregnancy?

According to a data report in 2013 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 18 percent of women drink while pregnant.

Nearly three percent of women report binge drinking during their first trimester.

Data revealed that some women continued to drink throughout their pregnancy, with 4.2 percent in the second trimester, 3.7 percent in the third trimester, and a small percentage binge drinking.

Anyone who struggles with alcohol misuse during pregnancy may benefit from detoxification since no amount of alcohol is determined to be safe during pregnancy.

Who Will Need Drug Detox During Pregnancy?

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that almost 5.5 percent of pregnant people were abusing drugs.

Substance abuse can double, and in some cases triple, the risk factors that can lead to stillbirth, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

For this reason, it is often best for expectant mothers to detox off any drug use during pregnancy. Medications and other treatments can help them do so safely.

Substance Abuse Treatment While Pregnant

Overall, the health and safety of both the pregnant individual and the fetus are most important.

Finding a program that provides appropriate care during the detox process, and subsequent addiction treatment starts with a phone call.

Reach out to our trained staff today, and we can help you find a location that can meet the needs of you or your loved one.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on October 11, 2021
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