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Abusing alcohol, as well as other drugs, during pregnancy is also a huge problem. But new research shows early intervention is key.
This was a great study involving nearly 50,000 pregnant women. Researchers linked substance-abuse treatment with prenatal visits, and there were some big benefits for the moms and babies alike.
Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, using illegal drugs: all spell nothing but trouble for a pregnant woman's unborn baby.
"[It causes] preterm delivery, stillborns, small-birth-weight babies, and then all the complications that go with that," explained Dr. Nancy Goler, an OB-GYN with Kaiser Permanente and lead author of the new report.
For 18-year-old Yadira Gonzalez of Richmond, the fear was real. She smoked marijuana and used cocaine for years before finding herself two-months pregnant. "I thought, you know, I had messed him up already. That's what I was thinking," she said.
Despite all the warnings about substance abuse during pregnancy, it's still a serous problem in the U.S., especially when you consider more than half of all pregnancies here are unplanned. But new study shows if the pregnant woman gets into treatment, her baby can be born healthy.
"The bottom line message here is that it's not too late to get help," Goler said.
Goler is the director of the early start substance-abuse program at Kaiser Permanente. Northern California Kaiser hospitals screen all pregnant women for drug use. "That's because substance abuse crosses all ages, races, socioeconomic class," Goler said.
The study involved nearly 50,000 pregnant women. Those who received early intervention, counseling and treatment reaped dramatic benefits for their babies.
"They had decreases in stillborns, decreases in babies needing a ventilator after being born, decreases in placental abruptions, decrease in preterm delivery compared to women who did not enter the program but screened positive," Goler said.
Gonzalez entered the program, and that meant her son, Omar, entered the world a perfectly healthy baby "I knew that it had a lot to do with me staying sober," Gonzalez said.
And the new mom vows she's not turning back "That's not an option. He's totally worth staying clean for," she said.
Researchers say the early-intervention program also saves a considerable amount of health care dollars -- they estimate nearly $5,000 for every mother-infant pair.