Pregnancy can turn your life upside down. A lot of people who get pregnant feel that way. But maybe you have some particular concerns. For example, maybe you have been drinking alcohol or taking party drugs in the past few weeks and only now know that you are pregnant. Or maybe you are addicted to heroin or pills and are wondering what to do now. You probably know yourself that addictive substances such as alcohol, cocaine, ecstasy, speed, crystal meth, heroin or pills can harm your pregnancy. The important thing though is that you're not ashamed to get help. You don't have to deal with these problems alone, since there are many support options and places to go.

If you use drugs regularly, it's best to contact a drug and addiction counseling centre near you as soon as possible. The counselors there will help you find a way to reduce your drug use. Most cities have such counselling centres. If you need help with your search, you can contact a doctor or a midwife. They can recommend a doctor's office or clinic that has experience with pregnant drug users. In many cases, you don't necessarily have to stay in a clinic for an extended period of time to get treatment. Outpatient therapy is often also possible. This means you have regular doctor's appointments, but can continue to go to work and live at home. Help and support are also offered by self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. If you don’t want to have the baby or do want to have it but aren’t sure how you’ll manage life if you do, you can get pregnancy counselling. You can also get good information in German from the German Centre for Addiction Issues (Deutsche Hauptstelle für Suchtfragen) at their website: www.dhs.de or by calling them at: 02381 90150.

Getting off addictive substances isn’t easy. There are some drugs that you can't just stop taking overnight. For example, if you are taking benzodiazepines (‘benzos’), you must slowly reduce the daily amount. Otherwise, you could have dangerous seizures. You also can't completely stop heroin from one day to the next. If you do, it can cause problems like premature labour. Going cold turkey in general increases the risk of premature birth. It is similar when experiencing severe alcohol withdrawal. If you are used to drinking a lot of alcohol on a regular basis and then you suddenly stop, you may suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms. You can learn how best to reduce your consumption from your doctor or at an addiction counselling centre appointment. In some cases, therapy in a detox ward may be necessary. In this case, you will live in a clinic for some time.

To protect your pregnancy from being harmed by drugs such as heroin, a health care provider may give you substitutes during pregnancy. These substances are substitutes that can be used in place of certain addictive substances. Only doctors with additional training in addiction medicine can prescribe these drugs for you. The costs are covered by your health insurance. If you're getting the drugs as part of treatment, you're also not under pressure to get drugs on your own. This saves you from having to do illegal things.

There are various options for addiction treatment using substitutes for certain addictive substances during in pregnancy. As far as is known today, none of these drugs cause birth defects or deformities in fetal development. Nevertheless, the substitutes are not entirely harmless. If you take it, your baby will probably be born with withdrawal symptoms. Your baby will therefore be transferred to a children's hospital after birth so that they can receive special treatment there. Doctors who have additional training in addiction medicine can tell you which substitute is right for you. They can also talk to you about how high the dose needs to be so that you don't have withdrawal symptoms.

Some pregnant women who are given substitutes for addictive substances do go back to using illegal drugs in between. Don't be discouraged if this happens to you too. Contact your doctor if you experience a relapse. Together, you can figure out how to get back on track without drugs. It is also important to get help from professionals after you give birth to continue living without drugs and alcohol abuse. Then your pregnancy can be a great opportunity. It can be a chance to get off drugs for good.