A friendly resource for women who want to lead better lives

Alcohol Use During Pregnancy & Adoption

This is a sad story, but there’s a point, so stick with it.

This weekend my husband, Matt, and I went out to a bar with some friends. While we were there, we noticed an obviously pregnant woman drinking and smoking. I realize that many pregnant women may drink occasionally, but this girl was clearly intoxicated.

She was a train wreck and no one could look away.

Then, I overheard one person say, “that must be an adoption baby.”

Let me tell you, as an adoptive mom, this hurt me to the core. I know it wasn’t meant to be insensitive, but three days later, I cannot stop wondering if that’s really what people think about adoption.

I have been advocating for adoption for a long time. It always surprises me when people are unwilling to consider adoption as a way to grow their families. Now, I’m putting these things together… maybe more people than I realize think adoption is for drug babies. Maybe that’s why people say “good for you” when they find out my kids were adopted. Do they think my kids are a charity case? Because they are not.

Neither of my kids had drug or alcohol exposure before birth. In fact, their birth mothers took care of themselves and they still love the boys to this day. It’s not just my kids…

I firmly believe that if a birth mother did not love her baby and want the best for it, she would have had an abortion. While I am not personally pro-abortion, it is still a legal and viable option for women who are not prepared to become mothers. However, a birth mom willingly brings a baby into the world with the intent of giving it the best possible life. Even if that is not with her. She is selfless.

Adoption agencies talk with birth moms about drug and alcohol exposure prior to delivery. The agencies are not judgmental about drug and alcohol use, however, they do need to know the truth. A baby born with drug or alcohol exposure will need special care and without knowing the truth ahead of time, the placement is likely to fall through. What I’m saying is, there are cases of exposure in adoption, but it is generally known ahead of time and is certainly not the norm.

I have not been able to find a statistic on the percentage of newborn adoptions that have had drug or alcohol exposure. However, I did find that the worldwide incidence of fetal alcohol syndrome is estimated at 1 to 3 per 1,000 live births. It is well documented that one of the main reasons kids end up in foster care is because their parents have substance abuse problems.

A review of 33 studies of children in the care of child welfare agencies or foster parents, as well as kids before and after their adoption from orphanages, found that six percent of children in those settings had fetal alcohol syndrome. Please note that these are children who were not adopted at birth. These are children who remained with their birth family until they were removed from the home and placed in foster care or an orphanage.

Drug and alcohol abuse during pregnancy is a terrible travesty. The lifetime cost for one person with fetal alcohol syndrome is estimated to be $2 million. People with severe problems, such as profound intellectual disability, have much higher costs.

If you are adopting a child and you are concerned about exposure, you have the right to ask the birth mom to have regular drug screens. You also have the right to ask your doctor for a preadoption medical review, where your doctor will assess the baby and any risk factors. The vast majority of disabilities related to prenatal care are apparent at birth.

I hope this eases the mind of anyone who may be considering adoption.

Please let me know if you have any questions!


P.S. A few interesting statistics about who is at highest risk (it’s not who you think!) – 

According to the Centers for Disease Control

  • Among pregnant women, the highest estimates of reported alcohol use were among those who were: 
    • Aged 35-44 years (14.3%);
    • White (8.3%);
    • College graduates (10.0%);
    • Employed (9.6%)
  • 1.4% of pregnant women (or 1 in 71) and 15.0% of nonpregnant women (or 1 in 7) reported binge drinking in the past 30 days.

P.P.S. The pregnant girl from the bar was spotted buying a crib mattress the next day. I don’t think she’s giving her baby up for adoption.

5 Responses to “Alcohol Use During Pregnancy & Adoption”

  1. My Perfect Breakdown

    As a someone early in the process to adopt your post made me think about a few things. First, our agency in Canada has pushed really hard for us to accept drugs and alcohol to “speed up” the wait. It has really troubled us that our agency, the people doing nearly 95% of adoption in our province, are making it clear that drugs and alcohol are part of the adoption process, and we have to be prepared to accept it. We personally agree with you, and have decided to ignore their recommendations to check off those boxes. Ultimately, we would rather wait longer to have the right placement. Also, we firmly believe that many birth mothers do take care of their babies. The idea that all adopted children will have exposure has been one of our biggest annoyances with the adoption process here, because we just know it isn’t true And what chance does the general public have to be knowledgeable, when the agency isn’t even getting it right with their approach?
    Second, in my province with domestic open adoption, we cannot ask for drug and alcohol screening, to do so would be considered a violation of privacy laws. We are expected to trust. This is in fact, one of the main reasons we decided to adopt from the USA, where we can request drug and alcohol screening.
    Third, I am sad when I hear of anyone who is pregnant not taking care of their baby and their own health. I don’t think adoption should even play into the equation, it’s just sad to know the incredibly negative consequences for the child regardless of who will raise the child.

    • marylemonwater

      I am so sorry you are going through this! We were matched with a birth mom for several months who denied drug use. I was very suspicious and asked her to take a drug test. She had the right to decline, but then we would have known she was using drugs. She did take the test, which came back positive for meth and marijuana. We backed out of thr match, but she still continued to deny drug use.

      Stick to your guns. A healthy birth mom will also be a much better choice if you want an open adoption.

      • My Perfect Breakdown

        Thank you so much for sharing this experience with me. This is precisely why we have chosen to adopt form the USA, and I love hearing that you actually went through it. I have no doubt it was hard at the time, but it was the right thing for you and that really does matter so much!

  2. Lindsay

    Wow. I am horrified that a pregnant woman was drinking and smoking and so blatantly, too! That comment someone made, though…I think that’s the exception, not the rule. I definitely do NOT hold those perceptions about adoption or adopted children/birth mothers.

    Like you, I believe birth mothers are some of the most selfless people walking this earth. They loved their babies enough to give them life, and to place them with families who would give them what their first/birth moms could not.

    It saddens me to think that there are people in this world who see children who were placed for adoption as “charity” cases. But I really do think – hope – that that perception is not the norm.

    • marylemonwater

      Yes, me too. It never really crossed my mind that adoption would be a charity case! Oh well… Their loss… 😦


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: