July 13, 2021 AddictionLife

Being Pregnant in Sobriety

Pregnancy can be a wonderful and exciting time for women ready to move on with their lives after recovering from drug and alcohol dependency. Being pregnant in sobriety comes with unique challenges, as some women may still be working on improving their overall health and fine-tuning skills that help them stay sober.

With the appropriate support, women in recovery who want to become pregnant can stay on track with their treatment programs and go on to have healthy, happy babies.

Eat Nutritious Foods

Whole, non-processed foods are the healthiest options for women who are both pregnant and in recovery. Drug and alcohol addiction can often cause malnutrition as it can change a person’s appetite, inhibit the body’s ability to absorb vital nutrients, and interfere with hormonal balance. Additionally, many people who suffer from addiction tend to prioritize drug and alcohol use above basic needs, including nutrition.

Eating nutritious foods can help promote a healthy uterus and baby, strengthening the immune system after lengthy drug and alcohol use. Pregnant women in recovery should increase their intake of whole, healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, spices, poultry, and fish. Foods that are particularly effective at boosting the immune system include broccoli, citrus fruits, spinach, garlic, and almonds.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise offers a variety of benefits for addiction recovery and pregnancy. First, it causes the body to release endorphins, which are “feel-good” hormones that naturally reduce stress and pain. Exercise also promotes quality sleep, increases energy, strengthens the immune system, and reduces depression and anxiety that could eventually contribute to relapse.

Exercising during pregnancy can strengthen and prepare the body for labor and delivery, contributing to a faster recovery after childbirth. It also reduces the risk of pregnancy-related complications, including gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Women who were already exercising before becoming pregnant can safely continue with their usual workout routines. However, women who weren’t already exercising should consult with their doctors before starting a routine.

Focus On Stress Management

Stress is one of the top relapse triggers among those in recovery from addiction. Relapse prevention training is available at many addiction treatment centers to teach people how to manage stress effectively without turning to drugs and alcohol. However, even those who have received this treatment remain susceptible to relapse without a sound stress management plan in place.

Many women who go through pregnancy experience a variety of stressors during that time. Physical discomfort due to back pain and morning sickness, abrupt hormone changes, and anxiety surrounding labor and birth are common sources of stress for pregnant women.

When left unchecked, stress can increase the risk of complications for both mother and baby, including relapse risk. Pregnant women in recovery should relieve their stress using healthy methods like yoga, deep breathing, and meditation to avoid relapse.

Keep the OB-GYN Informed

Women who become pregnant after recovering from addiction should inform their healthcare providers about their history of drug and alcohol use. That will help their doctors or midwives develop a customized treatment plan that takes nutrient absorption, stress, and medication use into account. For example, women in recovery from opiate addiction may get advised to avoid using morphine to dull labor and delivery pain, as doing so may increase their risk of relapse.

In some instances, the OB-GYN or midwife may even contact the medical team who oversaw the detox and medical treatments at drug rehab and collaborate with them to develop a safe, comprehensive treatment plan.

Join an Aftercare Program

Many addiction treatment centers offer aftercare programs that help former patients and alumni stay on track with sobriety long-term. An aftercare program may include support group meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous, group counseling, and ongoing behavioral therapy such as family therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. Some aftercare programs even host monthly events where alumni can participate in fun, sober activities such as board games, bowling, and hiking.

Staying sober can often be challenging enough on its own without adding in the challenges associated with pregnancy. Staying connected with the recovery community in the form of an aftercare program can help pregnant women remain confident and motivated about their sobriety and their new babies.