Northumberland sees rise in cocaine use during pregnancy

Northumberland Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has seen a significant rise in the number of women using cocaine in pregnancy. Credit: PA

There has been a significant rise in the number of women in Northumberland using cocaine in pregnancy.

Northumberland Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is launching a campaign to raise awareness of the life-threatening risk of taking the drug while pregnant after seeing increasing numbers of people ingesting it.

Cases detecting cocaine in pregnancy at Northumbria Healthcare have risen from just three women in 2017 to 47 in 2021, with 41 having already been identified in the first six months of this year.

Jenna Wall, head of midwifery at the trust, said: “There’s a common misconception that cocaine is a clean drug and therefore not as ‘risky’ as other recreational drugs.

"We’ve found that more people think it’s okay to take cocaine while pregnant and we want to stress that this is not the case.

“We encourage anyone who has used or is using drugs in pregnancy to speak to their midwife in confidence."

Some of the increase has been attributed to robust screening processes at the trust about substance and alcohol misuse in the last five years for all pregnant women.

Research into the effects of cocaine use in pregnancy shows that it may cause placental abruption, miscarriage, premature labour and stillbirth.

Evidence also suggests that cocaine use has a detrimental effect on foetal growth and brain development which can have lifelong implications for the child.

A new mother from Cramlington, who would like to stay anonymous, said: “When I split up from my partner, I went through a bit of a tough time and found myself using drugs when I was out.

“I’m not a regular drug user and I didn’t realise I was pregnant at the time, so when I found out I was obviously upset and concerned about the effects the drugs might have had on my baby.

“I was worried about telling the midwife but when I met her she was lovely and when I told her what had happened she didn’t judge me at all. She referred me to a specialist midwife who was really supportive and explained all of the risks which made me realise the importance of a clean and health pregnancy for me and my baby.

“For anyone worrying about speaking to a midwife about taking drugs, please don’t. I’m so glad I spoke to mine and feel so lucky to have welcomed a healthy baby and to have received so much support during a worrying time.”

An online campaign is being launched this week to raise awareness about the danger of taking cocaine while pregnant.

Wendy Burke, director of public health at North Tyneside Council, added: “Like all drugs, cocaine is extremely harmful in pregnancy and the effects can be devastating.

"Supporting pregnant women in a non-judgemental and caring way is essential in helping them to overcome substance abuse and addiction, this work by Northumbria Healthcare has done just that.

“If you are using cocaine, or any drugs or alcohol during your pregnancy please speak to your midwife, health visitor or any healthcare professional who will help you get the right support and access to services.

"No amount of drugs or alcohol is safe during pregnancy.”

Information and support on the effects of alcohol and drug use in pregnancy can be found online.

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