What is Perinatal Substance Abuse Program (PSAP)?

Learn about perinatal substance abuse, its signs and symptoms, its effect on pregnancy, and treatment options.

What Is Perinatal Substance Abuse?

It’s not uncommon to see pregnant mothers with pre-existing drug or alcohol use disorders. Unfortunately, pregnant women often forget that the substances they ingest can be absorbed by their babies.
This unholy union of substance abuse and pregnancy at the same period endangers the mother’s health and poses congenital disabilities from drugs.

Expectant mothers’ consumption of tobacco, alcohol, illegal drugs, or misuse of prescribed substances poses serious health risks to infants. According to the NIH, they double or triple the risk of stillbirth.

perinatal substance abuse


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How Common Is Substance Abuse During Pregnancy?

Substance abuse is a significant issue among pregnant women. For instance, in the United States, there is a significant rate of alcohol and opioid use disorder among pregnant women. According to the CDC, the number of women suffering from opioid use disorder during pregnancy and postpartum quadrupled from 1999 to 2014.

In a 2012 SAMHSA Report, research shows that out of pregnant women aged 15 to 44, 17.6% admitted to smoking tobacco, 9.4% admitted drinking alcohol, and 5% admitted to illegal drug use.

Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse in Pregnancy

These symptoms are not obvious physical indicators since they are mostly reported, but some of them include:
  • Evasion of prenatal care
  • Preterm labor
  • Placental abruption
  • Unstable lifestyle
  • Domestic violence
  • Fetal death

The Most Commonly Abused Substances During Pregnancy

Some of the commonly abused substances during pregnancy will be detailed below.


Smoking during pregnancy poses a lot of harm to your baby. Harmful chemicals such as nicotine and carbon monoxide may alter proper child development and cause congenital disabilities. In addition, the NIDA projects that tobacco use is 1.8 to 2.8 times more likely to cause stillbirth.

Besides, the baby can develop asthma or obesity after birth due to smoking during pregnancy. In extreme cases, tobacco use can cause infant mortality or SIDS – sudden infant death syndrome.


There is no benchmark for the amount of alcohol safe for drinking during pregnancy. However, alcohol intake increases the risk of FASD – fetal alcohol syndrome disorder.

FASD is known to damage children’s physical, cognitive, and behavioral development. Moreover, in 2014, the CDC reported that the FASD rate ranged from 0.2 to 1.5 per 1000 births.

Illegal Drugs

Another maternal substance abuse involves illegal drugs such as cocaine or drugs like meth or benzos. Not only are they addictive, but they pose dangerous health risks to unborn babies.

Illegal drug abuse during pregnancy may cause severe congenital disabilities, underweight children, and withdrawal symptoms postpartum.

Prescription Drugs

As a pregnant parent, you need to follow your prescription drugs strictly. You must not misuse prescribed drugs or overdose for whatever reason.

For instance, misuse of prescription opiates and narcotics during pregnancy can cause severe congenital disabilities, premature birth, maternal mortality, and even miscarriage. Besides, prescription drugs like stimulants and pain relievers are 2.2 times more likely to cause stillbirth.

Perinatal Substance Abuse Effects and Risks

Some common side effects of substance abuse in pregnancy include:
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Malnutrition
  • Personality disorder
  • Maternal complications
  • PTSD – posttraumatic stress disorder

Long Term Effects of Substance Abuse During Pregnancy

Some long-term effects of maternal substance abuse include some of the following:
  • Severe congenital disabilities
  • Placenta damage
  • Premature birth
  • Underweight children
  • Abnormal body organ sizes
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD)
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Substance Withdrawal Risks

Recurrent use of certain drugs can cause NAS – neonatal abstinence syndrome, which causes a baby to experience withdrawal after birth. Infant withdrawal symptoms can be discovered immediately or 14 days postpartum.

Severity of Infant Withdrawal Factors

The severity of such infant withdrawal symptoms depends on the following factors:
  • Type of substance consumed
  • Duration of such consumption
  • Frequency of such consumption
  • Pregnant mother’s metabolism
  • Premature or full-term birth

Infant Withdrawal Risks

Some of these symptoms of infant’s drug withdrawal are:
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Irritation
  • Hyperventilating

What Is a Perinatal Substance Abuse Program (PSAP)?

The PSAP is a comprehensive program that focuses on treating individuals with substance abuse disorder. In addition, the program addresses the specific needs of expecting mothers. Such recovery needs may further require counseling on parenting and child development.

Luckily, substance abuse treatment during pregnancy can be entered into at any stage of pregnancy and exceed about 120 days postpartum.

Which Treatment Options Can Be Included in a Perinatal Substance Abuse Program?

In 2010, the ACOG reported that only 19 states in the United States have pregnancy addiction treatment programs. Women may be skeptical about the legal troubles associated with substance abuse. However, they should be encouraged to seek the proper medical care to ensure a safe pregnancy.

The type of treatment(s) required will vary based on an individual’s recovery needs and the types of substances consumed.

PSAP Treatment Opportunities

Some treatment options that can be included in PSAPs include:

  • Detox
  • Therapy
  • Counseling
  • Support groups
  • Pharmacological treatment
  • Obstetric and pediatric care
  • Transitional services
  • Vocational training
  • Parenting and child development education

Treatment for Perinatal Substance Abuse in Los Angeles

Substance abuse in pregnancy poses severe health risks to you and your baby. There is no specific duration for perinatal substance abuse treatment because people recover at their own pace. However, there are various PSAPs from which to select the best suitable option.

At Concise Recovery, our PSAPs adhere to the Perinatal Services Network Guidelines and include:

perinatal substance abuse

Residential/Inpatient Programs

The residential treatment involves intensive 24-7 healthcare within a medical facility. This program is mainly suitable for pregnant women due to the level of care they need during the period. Besides, the residential treatment also offers postnatal services, including safe housing and healthy childcare.

Outpatient Programs

Outpatient programs are flexible and afford pregnant women or nursing mothers the time to care for their other kids and even school. Outpatient pregnancy addiction treatment merely demands sessions for a few hours of the day. In addition, these programs offer prenatal care and grant women a supportive environment to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Educational Therapy

Private or group therapy offers pregnant women transitional services and psychological support in addiction treatment. The therapy improves your mental healthcare. It also helps them learn group skills and develop healthy parenting habits and coping mechanisms.


Counseling helps you become a better parent even before giving birth to your child. This remains an integral part of substance abuse treatment and will get your mindset on the right track before, during, and after pregnancy.

Reach Out to Concise Recovery

You should get medical help immediately if you are pregnant and have issues with substance abuse. Medical healthcare service providers will help you find ways to quit to safeguard your health and that of your baby.

At Concise Recovery, our team of medical health experts is equipped to safeguard you and your family from the harmful effects of drug abuse during pregnancy and after.

Contact us today to get started.