Drug or alcohol addiction is the source of multiple problems for addicts. Those problems and others can be passed on to your baby if you’ve been using drugs or alcohol while you were pregnant. Babies born with drug addictions will display withdrawal symptoms common to addicts who are going through withdrawal. They can also suffer from drug-related developmental delays in their early years, including reduced motor skill development and other physical, cognitive and psychological problems.
Recognizing a baby’s addiction is the first step toward proper treatment. Physicians have identified several symptoms of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (“NAS”), including irritability, feeding difficulties, stiffness, fever, and vomiting or diarrhea. If your physician sees these signs, he may ask you about your drug or alcohol usage while you were pregnant. You need to be honest and open with him or her to get the best treatment for your baby as soon as possible.
Watch for Signs of Delay in Childhood
Because many babies, and not just babies born with NAS, can have problems like these soon after they’re born, if you did use drugs or alcohol while you were pregnant you’ll need to watch your child closely during his or her first few years for developmental disabilities. You should learn what your child should be able to do as he or she begins to grow. Within three to five months after being born, for example, you baby should be able to grab things, hold his head up a bit, put things in his mouth and push with his feet. After six months he should be sitting up and holding things with both hands. Within a year or so he should be standing and walking. You should talk to and get help from your healthcare provider if you sense that your baby isn’t doing these things, especially if you were using drugs or alcohol before he was born.
Beyond delayed development of his physical skills, your growing child may also have cognitive or psychological problems particularly if you used cocaine or opiates, like heroin, while you were pregnant. Pay attention to whether your child is learning to talk, or if he gets irritated or distracted easily. Doctors and researchers don’t completely understand how cocaine or opiates can affect your child, but they suspect nervous system or brain development damage, possibly from inadequate oxygen to your baby while you were pregnant. This damage won’t be obvious until your child is two or three years old. Babies born to drug- or alcohol-addicted mothers may not be raised in the best environments for treatment, and poor nutrition or other environmental factors can also cause developmental delays. Your physician can’t and won’t know everything about your life, and you will always be the best person to watch for these delays as your child grows and develops his physical and cognitive skills.
If you see the symptoms of developmental delays in your child, your doctor can help you to form a treatment plan. You shouldn’t be afraid that your child will be taken away from you. Treatment centers have professional staffs that understand your situation and that are committed to help you and your child. They can teach you to watch for developmental growth or delays in that growth as your child gets older. More importantly, they can help you to recover from your addiction and to address and treat your child’s problems before they overwhelm you.
You and your child deserve a healthy recovery. If you have questions about drug addiction or alcoholism treatment, contact the staff at Treatment Now for a consultation.
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