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Using Meth During Pregnancy: Effects, Risks, and Treatment

Dealing with meth use during pregnancy can be challenging. The mother-to-be can be concerned about her health and that of her unborn child. Meth rehab for pregnant women is available, and healthcare providers can help manage these concerns.

This article will discuss the dangers and risks of using methamphetamine while pregnant, the process of methamphetamine detox during pregnancy, and the options for rehab.

Dangers and Risks of Using Meth While Pregnant

Pregnancy can be a stressful and emotional time, and meth use during pregnancy can contribute to more stress.1 Misuse of any substance and any use of dangerous substances during pregnancy can cause dangerous health problems not only for the mother but also for the unborn baby as the fetus is exposed to the substance and is at risk of withdrawal after birth.2

Pregnant women should communicate with their healthcare providers about:3

  • All medications they are taking.
  • Starting any new medications or stopping any current medications.
  • Any drug or alcohol use.

What Is Methamphetamine?

Addiction to methamphetamine is classified as a stimulant use disorder (SUD).4 Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug, which means it speeds up brain function leading to effects like euphoria, increased activity and talkativeness, faster breathing, and sleep problems.5

Meth causes these effects by increasing dopamine levels in the brain, a natural chemical that is involved in various functions including feeling pleasure, behavior, sleep, mood, and thought processes.6

The possible long-term effects of meth use include:

  • Weight loss.7
  • Anxiety and mood disruptions.7
  • Psychosis, such as delusions or hallucinations.8
  • Damage to the brain and heart.8
  • Tooth decay and loss.7
  • Skin sores.7
  • Tolerance and withdrawal.7
  • Addiction.7

Pregnant women who use meth are at a higher risk specifically for:

  • High blood pressure.8
  • Heart attack.8
  • Heart weakness and impaired heart function.8
  • Pregnancy complications.9

Danger and Effects of Meth on an Unborn Baby

Meth use during pregnancy can be harmful to the fetus because, like most drugs, it crosses the placenta.10 This is the organ in the uterus that supplies nutrients to the fetus, particularly the fetal brain.11 Research suggests that prenatal exposure to meth can cause:

  • Premature birth.12
  • Low birth weight.12
  • Brain and heart abnormalities.12
  • Increased emotional concerns like anxiety, depression, and social withdrawal.13
  • Attention and concentration problems.13

In addition to illicit meth use, taking stimulant medications while pregnant may also cause health consequences for the fetus.

Quitting Meth While Pregnant

Stopping meth use at any point during pregnancy can improve birth outcomes such as a healthier birth weight and a more average or normal gestational period.15 Therefore, informing providers about meth use may be the most important step toward managing and treating addiction; healthcare providers can help create a plan to safely reduce or stop use.

Is it Safe to Stop Using Meth While Pregnant?

Yes, stopping meth while pregnant is safe because withdrawal from meth is not medically dangerous and medications are rarely required during detox.16 At the same time, it is important to work with a healthcare provider to establish a detox plan since everyone’s experience is unique.

Meth withdrawal symptoms can include:16

  • Poor concentration.
  • Slowed movement or fatigue.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Cravings for meth.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Anxiety or irritability.
  • Paranoia.
  • Depression.

Depression is considered to be central to meth withdrawal and treatments warranted can depend on symptom severity.17 The greatest risk of withdrawal is suicidal ideation that providers monitor and treat as needed.16 They may be able to prescribe antidepressant medication to deal with depressive symptoms.16 In addition, intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment services are a possibility if providers want to closely monitor the patient for the duration of meth detox, which is typically 14 days.16,17

Meth Addiction Treatment for Pregnant Women

There are rehab programs tailored especially for pregnant women to meet their various needs including medical services like gynecological care, education about health and wellness, childcare services, mental health services, and case management to help connect people with assistance such as legal counsel and housing.18

Unlike treatment of opioid addiction or alcohol addiction, there are no specific medications that are FDA-approved to treat meth addiction. Therefore, therapy and counseling are the core of rehab and crucial for sustaining recovery.19

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common treatment approach recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to treat meth addiction in pregnant people.2 CBT helps the person to examine how their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are related to each other and make healthy changes in order to reduce meth use.20

Contingency management (CM) is another type of therapeutic approach recommended by the WHO that involves providing tangible rewards for making positive behavioral changes.2,19 Yet another therapy approach commonly used to treat drug addiction is motivational enhancement therapy (MET) which involves helping the person work through their ambivalence toward misuse and get closer to making healthy changes.19

Aftercare, or continuing care, following rehab treatment is also important to sustain progress made in rehab and foster a healthy mother-child bond.21 One example of aftercare is outpatient counseling in which a mother can continue to learn healthy coping strategies and parenting skills.21 Another example of aftercare is 12-Step group meetings such as Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA) which allows a person to get support, encouragement, and coping strategies from peers who also deal with meth addiction.21

Meth Detox Facilities for Pregnant Women

Withdrawing from meth does not typically require medical detox unless the person is dealing with misuse of additional substances such as alcohol or opioids.16 However, the severity of meth addiction is also a consideration, and it is a good idea to consult with a provider about medically supervised detox as an option.16

It is important to note that if a person does complete a medically supervised detox, that alone is not sufficient treatment for their underlying addiction; engaging in a drug rehab program after detox is what helps to facilitate recovery.22

Inpatient Meth Rehab for Pregnant Women

Different levels of meth rehab treatment are available and the one most suited for a pregnant woman depends on her specific circumstances, such as level of SUD severity and social support.23 Inpatient drug rehab is generally a fit for someone with severe meth addiction, who does not have a drug-free support network, or who needs care 24 hours per day.24 The person resides at the treatment facility typically for a few months to one year.24

There are various benefits of inpatient or residential treatment including the ability to focus solely on recovery and receiving multiple services like therapy, medication, other medical services, and case management.24

Outpatient Meth Rehab for Pregnant Women

Outpatient rehab treatment is also an option for pregnant women dealing with meth addiction who have a strong social network or live in a drug-free environment.21 A few different types of outpatient programs exist. One is outpatient counseling where a person can attend therapy for less than 9 hours per week at a therapist’s office.23

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are available for someone who needs more intensive treatment but also needs to continue to work or attend school.23 They are generally available at different times—during the day, in the evenings, or on weekends—to accommodate different schedules.23 Like inpatient treatment, IOPs tend to have individual and group therapy, educational classes on substances and mental health, and medical and pharmacological treatment.21

Partial hospitalization (PHP) is another form of outpatient treatment that is a step up from IOP and involves attending services daily for 4 to 8 hours.23 It is a fit for someone who needs intensive treatment but does not require care 24 hours per day.23

Start Your Meth Addiction Recovery Today

If you or a loved one is pregnant and dealing with meth addiction, please know that treatment is available, it can be effective in reducing meth use, and American Addiction Centers (AAC) is here to help.19 Moreover, there are effects caused by meth on the brain and body that can be reversible with abstinence.7 Rehab puts you, your baby, and your family on the path to a healthy future.19

Call us at to speak with an admissions navigator who can help you:

It is never too late for pregnant women to seek treatment for meth misuse and addiction. Call us today with any questions and to begin your recovery journey.

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