A significant proportion of Canadian women smoke tobacco, drink alcohol or take drugs during pregnancy, putting their newborns' health at risk, a new report says.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse report cites 2008 data showing 13 per cent of pregnant women smoked, 11 per cent consumed alcohol and five per cent used drugs.
Monday's report shows Ontario cases of newborn withdrawal arising from a mother's drug use during pregnancy jumped to 654 in 2010 from 171 in 2003 — an almost four-fold increase.
Substance abuse during pregnancy can lead to other complications for babies, including low birth weight, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and developmental and cognitive problems.
But the report says addiction is a disease and doctors need to treat women abusing substances with compassion, not further stigmatize them.
The report says a team of health providers is needed to address the complexity of addiction. Treatment needs to include a range of services, including counselling, medication-assisted therapy and community resources for parents.