Recovering Addicts, Pregnancy and Nutrition

Mother concerned about the possibility of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Contributed by: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Addiction Hope

close up of pregnant woman touching her bare tummy

Pregnancy is a beautiful time during a woman’s life, one that comes with great care and responsibility.

Maintaining recovery from addiction while pregnant can add to the challenges that might be faced, but the reward of bringing a healthy baby into the world is a priceless gift, worth every sacrifice.

If you are pregnant and have previously struggled with addiction, choosing to stay in recovery is one of the most important decisions you could make.

A Nourishing Pregnancy

Another important aspect of pregnancy is nutrition and ensuring that you are nourishing your body adequately for you and your growing baby. It takes a conscious effort to eat a variety of foods that will bring optimal health to your body during and after pregnancy. As your body develops and your baby grows, there are particular nutrient needs that you will have.

To start, it is important that you have prenatal care with an obstetric doctor or midwife. A health professional who is regularly monitoring your health and the growth of your baby is absolutely vital during this time of pregnancy.

It is also crucial that your doctor or midwife understands your past medical history and any issues related to drug or alcohol abuse. While you may find it difficult to share this information, this is a vital piece about yourself that will assist your doctor in determining the best course of treatment for you and your baby.


Assessing Your Pregnancy

During pregnancy, your caloric needs will increase by about 300 calories per day in order to support the growth and development of your baby.

Your nutrient needs could be higher than this if you are recovering from drugs or alcohol, depending on the physical condition of your body.

A Registered Dietitian can assess your nutrient needs and help you determine if you are consuming enough to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

Other important nutrition aspects to consider and be mindful of during pregnancy while in addiction recovery include the following:

  • Hydration: Addiction to drugs or alcohol can dehydrate the body, and having sufficient fluid is crucial to health and pregnancy. Maintain hydration by drinking at least 8 cups of water daily. Milk and 100% juices can also offer liquid and nutrition for your body. Limit soda and caffeinated beverages intake, as excessive sugar and caffeine could be adverse to your baby.
  • Folic Acid: This important vitamin is crucial for the development of your baby’s brain and spinal cord. Having sufficient folic acid in your diet can help prevent birth defects. Many foods are rich sources of folic acid, such as fortified breakfast cereals, beans, spinach, enriched noodles, and more. Taking a prenatal vitamin can also ensure that you are getting the amount of folic acid you need to support your pregnancy.
  • Calcium: Calcium levels in the body can be significantly altered by an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Eating calcium rich foods can help support bone health and strength for you and your baby. Calcium is also important for your muscular, nervous and circulatory system. While the body best absorbs dairy products, there are other non-diary sources of calcium that can be beneficial to your body, including dark leafy greens, fortified cereals and juices.
  • Omega-3’s: These healthy fats support brain development and many important body functions. The best sources of omega three fish oils include cold water fish, such as salmon, tuna, anchovies, and sardines. However, the safest source during pregnancy would be a purified fish oil supplement. Many prenatal vitamins contain omega 3s which offers the added benefit of this important nutrient.

Creating a Solid Start

Portrait of happy mother and baby

Maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy can help build a foundation for a healthy start for both mother and baby.

Taking extra precautions may be necessary for the mother in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction to help replete any nutrients that may have been lost or to support the body in the recovery process.

It is possible to not only recover from addiction or substance abuse but to live a healthy life. If you have been concerned about your ability to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy, be encouraged by knowing that your body is an amazing miracle, and choosing recovery means hope for you, your future, and your children.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Did you or a loved one become pregnant while in recovery from addiction? What challenges and joys did you encounter in your journey?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 20th, 2015
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.