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Repercussions of Positive Drug Tests in Newborns

The birth of a child should be a joyous occasion for women and their loved ones. But when babies are born with drugs in their systems, the anticipation and joy is tempered by serious consequences.

Often, these babies have life-threatening health problems and are in need of immediate medical attention. In some cases, newborns may even be removed from the mother’s custody.

Legal Consequences of Positive Drug Tests in Newborns

Despite the many dangerous side effects, some women continue to abuse drugs throughout pregnancy. When a mother abuses drugs, her unborn child has a greater risk of seizures, respiratory problems, feeding difficulties, low birth weight, and may even die.1 In many cases, it’s a matter of an untreated addiction. The mother is unwilling or unable to stop abusing drugs despite the many warnings she might receive. Whatever the case, when a newborn tests positive for drugs, it is a serious matter with serious legal consequences.

Doctor holding newbornThe legal consequences vary from state to state, but the mother can face the following:

  • Reporting of abuse – In many states, including Massachusetts, Virginia, Arizona, Alaska and Illinois, it is mandatory that medical professionals who are aware of a positive drug test in a newborn report it to Child Protective Services.2 This report can lead to many consequences for the mother, including an investigation and the loss of the right to parent her child.
  • Revocation of custody – In some states—such as Florida, Texas and Minnesota—a positive drug test in a newborn is considered part of the child welfare law. This fact makes it probable that social services will remove the child from the custody of the mother to prevent further abuse or neglect.
  • Required treatment – In Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and other states, women who have drug-positive newborns are required to be admitted into an inpatient treatment facility to get the help they need before being able to parent their newborn.

In addition to these potential consequences, some states enforce even stricter laws for mothers who birth children who test positive for drugs. Currently, Tennessee is the only state with a statute that specifically makes it a crime to use drugs while pregnant.3

The Plan To Help You Move Forward

For women who get pregnant under the influence of drug or alcohol abuse or addiction, one bad or habitually bad decision making do not change the end result. Once pregnant, it is important to get the care they need to help the baby have the healthiest development possible.

To do this may mean going through a detox program to help clear the body of drugs that may harm the baby, as well as participating in inpatient or outpatient drug addiction treatment throughout the pregnancy.

But whatever it takes is what it takes to give both mother and child the hope of a future together.

If you are pregnant and struggle with a drug problem, please call our 24-hour helpline, 269.280.4673, right now. Do not run the risk of losing your child. Please call us today so we can help you build a better future for you and your baby.


1 What Are The Unique Needs Of Pregnant Women With Substance Use Disorders?National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed 13 June 2018.

2 Guidelines for Testing and Reporting Drug Exposed Newborns in Washington State.” Washington State Department of Health. Accessed 13 June 2018.

3 Miranda, Leticia. “How States Handle Drug Use During Pregnancy.” Accessed 13 June 2018.