Alcohol, Drug Use, Smoking, and Stress During Pregnancy

Pregnancy causes natural stress on the body with hormonal changes and physical changes occurring from the first days after conception. Social stressors can also pose a problem when women choose to continue unhealthy behaviors after finding out they are pregnant. The top three social behaviors that may increase stress on a pregnant body are alcohol, drug use, and smoking.

Alcohol and pregnancy stress

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy has long been associated with fetal alcohol syndrome. Women who find out they are pregnant are advised to stop drinking immediately as the condition could cause health problems and birth defects. Alcohol use during pregnancy may also increase the risk of miscarriage due to the physical effects of alcohol and stress related to alcohol use. Many women who drink alcohol casually before becoming pregnant have no trouble stopping after conception. Others, most often women who drink alcohol on a regular basis, may feel stressed by the choice to quit drinking. Alcoholism is a disease and needs to be treated professionally in some cases to reduce the effects of withdrawal and stress on fetal and maternal health.

How drug use affects stress

Along the same lines, recreational drug use can quickly cause dependency. When pregnant, women who have used recreational drugs in the past may have increased stress associated with quitting a drug habit cold turkey. In some cases, drug recovery can take many months and may need to be completed under the care of specialized doctors and therapists. Stress is a physical reaction and while women may be able to quit the habit on their own, the physical effects of stress related to quitting early in the pregnancy may be associated with increased miscarriage risk.

Smoking and pregnancy

Tobacco is the most widely used legal drug on the planet. Smoking cigarettes or other forms of tobacco during pregnancy is associated with lower birth weight infants and increased risk of miscarriage. Quitting smoking is the healthiest option, but quitting, as most people who have tried to quit will note, can cause increased risk stress.

Talking with your obstetrician about quitting smoking and options to help curb cravings and stress is one option all pregnant women have. There are natural, holistic, and over the counter remedies for quitting smoking, but not all are approved for use while pregnant.

There is a fine line between healthy choices and increased stress while pregnant. Women who use alcohol, drugs, or tobacco while pregnant increase the risk of fetal harm exponentially. Quitting these habits can cause increased stress which can then trigger early miscarriage. What seems like a catch 22 is just another reason to seek professional help when fighting off stress associated with providing a healthier womb for baby.

How to cope with pregnancy stress 

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