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How to Throw an Adoption Shower

Adding a new member to the family is always a reason to celebrate, no matter how you’re going about it. Gaining a new family member though adoption is just as significant as having a child biologically. However, there are obviously going to be some differences in how you prepare for the arrival of that child. One of these differences comes in the form of a baby shower.

When should we have an adoption shower?

When a couple has a child biologically, they may have a better idea of what to expect than parents pursuing an adoption. With this in mind, it may be better to have an adoption shower after a child has been placed with a family. Why? Well, there are actually a few reasons.

  • In many adoption scenarios, the parents don’t know when they’ll receive an adoption opportunity. It could take days, and it could take months. If a couple is already anxiously awaiting an adoption, it could be painful to have an adoption shower and then have to wait six more months for a match.
  • For a traditional baby shower, you can usually bank on the parents needing similar items — diapers, carriers, cribs, etc. In an adoption scenario, though, it’s possible that the child will be older and will require different items.
  • While American Adoptions does everything it can to prevent an adoption disruption, it’s possible that an adoption won’t go through after a couple has been matched with a pregnant woman. If you’ve already had an adoption shower with a specific child in mind, and then that woman decides to parent, this might only serve to make your disappointment even worse.

What games should we play at an adoption shower?

Some of the games played at a traditional baby shower probably won’t make sense at an adoption shower. For example, if the baby is already with the family, then any guessing games about birthdays or weights will be off the table. And the new mom will probably not appreciate any games that involve guessing the size of her stomach. This might be a good opportunity to play up the adoption theme, though.

Adoptive Families suggests playing a game of adoption-themed trivia, with tasks like naming famous people who are adoptive parents or more personalized adoption questions specific to the couple. Keep in mind, though, that if the baby has already arrived, people may be more interested in taking turns holding them than playing games!

What should a gift registry for an adoption shower look like?

Quite simply, it should look however you want it to! If you’re an adoptive parent reading this, you should know it’s okay to register both for things you need and things you want, just like any new parent. Sometimes parents prefer to wait a few weeks after their child is placed with them to have a shower, just for the chance to acclimate the baby to his or her new home. If that’s the case, you may already be set for a while on things your baby actually needs.

If this is the case, and you don’t feel like there’s anything you need for your baby at this point, this might be a good chance to embrace the adoption theme. You can register for children’s books about adoption, or informational books about parenting adopted children. If you know of other couples who are beginning the adoption process, this could also be an amazing chance to help them fundraise. Instead of asking for gifts for your family, you could suggest a donation to another family’s adoption fund. This could also be a good chance to help raise money for an organization that benefits children.

The bottom line when planning an adoption shower is that it should be whatever the parents are comfortable with. If you’re hoping to throw a shower for family members or friends, simply ask them what they’d prefer. There are a lot of emotions that go along with adoption, and it’s going to be difficult to predict their preferences in this situation. When it doubt, just ask!


How to Build an Adoption Support System

Adoption is an extremely emotional experience for everyone involved. Whether you’re a pregnant woman considering adoption or a couple hoping to adopt, there are going to be times when you have to turn to someone for emotional support. Not only is that okay, it’s encouraged. Having people you can talk to about your struggles can make all the difference.

The struggles you’re going through, of course, are going to be very different depending on which side of the adoption triad you represent. With this in mind, we’ve split this post up into two sections: advice for pregnant women and advice for adoptive families.

How to build a support system as a pregnant woman considering adoption

If you find yourself unexpectedly pregnant and unsure of what to do, it’s so crucial that you have people in your corner. You’re faced with one of the toughest decisions of your lifetime, and having a good support system can make all the difference.

You need people around who are going to support you emotionally, help you throughout your pregnancy and help you with decisions. This does not mean you need people to make your decisions for you. You and you alone have the right to decide what to do about your unplanned pregnancy. But hearing different opinions and perspectives may be able to help you consider points you hadn’t thought about before, and this could be extremely helpful.

Who your support system consists of depends on the people you have in your life. This is going to be different for everyone, and there’s no specific number of people you need surrounding you. Sometimes one really good person is enough, and sometimes you’ll want to surround yourself with a variety of family and friends. Some people you can turn to may include:

  • The baby’s father
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Friends
  • Extended family members
  • Teachers
  • Counselors
  • Pastors or other religious figures

If you don’t have these people in your life, or if they aren’t capable of providing the support you need, that doesn’t mean you’re alone. It might be as simple as trying a new church or calling to speak with an adoption specialist. Just make sure that whoever you’re turning to for support and advice is always focused on your best interests.

Regardless of who makes up your support system, you’ll need to establish good communication techniques. This may include telling them what you need; sometimes you’ll just need the space to be alone. Other times you’ll need someone to run an errand for you or to discuss everything that’s changing in your life. Remember to not only ask for patience but to give it to those around you. This may be new territory for everyone.

If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy and need support, or if you need help telling your friends and family members that you are considering adoption, you can contact an adoption specialist any time at 1-800-ADOPTION. Your call is free, confidential, and does not obligate you to choose adoption.

How to build a support system as a family pursuing adoption

Coming to the decision to grow your family through adoption isn’t always an easy process. Maybe you’ve encountered infertility issues; many couples who pursue adoption have already poured time, money and emotions into trying to conceive. This can be exhausting in every way imaginable.

It’s also possible that you’re worried about coming up with the money for adoption. It’s not a cheap process, and there’s a lot that goes into it. Then there’s the fear that you won’t match with a birth mother, or that something will happen during the pregnancy, or that she’ll change her mind. It’s okay to be stressed, even as you’re so thrilled about the child you’ll eventually bring home.

It’s also okay to admit that you’re overwhelmed. You’re being put through your emotional paces, and you’re going to need people in your corner just as a prospective birth mom does. Your list of potential support team members is, for the most part, the same as a pregnant woman’s.

  • Your spouse
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Friends
  • Extended family members
  • Other families who have adopted
  • Counselors
  • Pastors or other religious figures
  • Your adoption specialist

You may also need to be vocal about what you need from your support system. It’s not always easy for people to imagine what a family waiting to adopt is going through. They may not know about the financial aspect, or the paperwork leading up to it, or the matching process itself. They may not understand your feelings about a relationship with the birth parents. In other words, there may be a lot you have to explain, which can feel even more stressful when you’re already exhausted.

Remember to be patient with those around you. They love you, and they’re doing their best. But also remember it’s okay to take some time for yourself. It’s not your responsibility to educate people about adoption 24/7. Find your balance.

If you feel that your support system is lacking, don’t underestimate how helpful an adoption specialist can be. To speak with an adoption specialist at American Adoptions, call 1-800-ADOPTION today.


Top 12 Adoption Social Media Accounts to Follow

At American Adoptions, we like to remind our adoptive families that they’re not alone. No matter what phase of the process you’re in, there are other families out there who are experiencing something similar. But you don’t just have to take our word for it.

The internet is full of information about adoption, some of it helpful and true and some of it a little less so. To help you on your quest for adoption information as well as an online community, we’ve compiled Facebook, Twitter and blog links to helpful accounts. Some of these, like Considering Adoption’s Facebook and Twitter, are more informational. Others, like Ripped Jeans and Bifocals, provide a glimpse into an adoptive family’s life — and all of the unique experiences that come along with it.

These represent only a small sampling of the adoption-related social media accounts out there, but it’s a list of solid accounts to get you started.

  1. American Adoptions, Twitter: @adoptions, Instagram: americanadoptions
  2. Considering Adoption, @consideradopt
  3., @adoption
  4. AdoptUSKids, @AdoptUSKids
  5. National Adoption Center, @NatAdoptCenter
  6. Ripped Jeans and Bifocals
  7. Adoptive Families
  8. Show Hope, @ShowHope
  9. Confessions of an Adoptive Parent
  10. Lifesong for Orphans, @LifesongOrphans
  11. Creating a Family, @CreatingaFamily
  12. No Hands But Ours

Why You’re Waiting

You may have already dealt with infertility, disrupted adoption opportunities, or other heartbreaks and obstacles in your journey to become a parent. But waiting is often the hardest part for hopeful adoptive families.

In the beginning stage of the adoption process, there’s so much to do; filing paperwork, completing background checks, coordinating with home study professionals and more. Then, once all of that is done, you’re left to just — wait.

Everyone’s Wait Time Will Be Different

One of the first questions that couples considering adoption ask is, “How long does it take to adopt a child?”

For some, the wait is a short one. They’re placed with a child within a few months or even weeks for a number of reasons, which could include openness to all possible situations on their APQ or accepting an already available adoption opportunity.

For others, it can take years. This is not uncommon for couples who choose to adopt internationally, are adopting through a smaller local agency that is only able to manage a few clients at a time, or for those who want to foster to adopt.

For those who adopt through American Adoptions, the average wait time until placement is 1-12 months.

Your wait time will be determined by the type of adoption you pursue, your openness to different kinds of adoption opportunities (being open to any kind of gender, race, or medical history) and more.

It’s frustrating to see others adopt quickly while you’re still waiting. Try to remind yourself not to compare your adoption experience with others’. You’re going to become a parent on your individual timeline, not someone else’s. Keep hanging on!

Why a Birth Mother Hasn’t Chosen You Yet

“Why haven’t we been picked yet?”

“Is there something wrong with our profile?”

“Are we doing enough?”

If you’re still waiting to be placed into an adoption opportunity with a potential birth mother, you may be fighting to push aside some of these questions and fears. You’ll worry that you don’t look “young enough,” or that birth mothers don’t think your home is “nice enough,” or that you don’t seem “fun enough” in your pictures.

You are absolutely enough.

Someone is going to choose you to raise her child. That’s the biggest decision that a pregnant woman can make. It’s an honor to be chosen for that monumental task, but it also means that these pregnant women have a lot to consider. Most importantly, something will just click when they see the right family for their baby.

Just because that hasn’t happened yet for you doesn’t mean that it won’t, or that you’re doing anything wrong.

How did you know that your spouse was the person that you wanted to marry? How do you know when you make a major decision? You probably just had a sensing of “knowing” that this was the right choice for you.

Pregnant women considering adoption are waiting to experience that same sense with a prospective adoptive family. Trust that there will be a potential birth mother who sees your family profile and just knows that you’re the family for her baby.

Why You’ll Be Chosen by a Birth Mother

It’s important to represent yourself accurately in your family profile because a pregnant women considering adoption will look at a family’s profile and feel a little rush of excitement when she finds something that she connects with.

She may see a family who has a strong relationship with their extended family members and be thrilled because that’s something she wants for her baby, too.

She may see a family who loves spending time outdoors, and that’s exactly the future she envisioned for her child.

She may see a family who has a quirky sense of humor and whose favorite activity is playing games together at home. She just knows that this is where she wants her child to grow up.

Pregnant women considering adoption are looking for married couples with no children, committed couples with several older siblings for their child and everything in between — there’s no way to be the “right” family for every potential birth mother. You can only be the right family for the right birth mother.

The Real Reason Why You Keep Waiting

The wait time of your adoption will vary from other adoptions. There a number of factors that can affect your wait time.

But the reason you keep waiting, despite the emotional toll that this inactive phase of the adoption process can have on you, is your desire to become a family.

When you feel like you can’t stand to wait another second, remember the child that you’re waiting for. When you’re tempted to call your Adoptive Family Specialist and cry and scream and beg, remember who you’re waiting for.

This time spent simply waiting for a phone call is one of the most difficult parts of adoption. But you’re waiting because of the years you’ll get to spend with your child.


  • You are enough.
  • The right birth mother for you will choose you.
  • Everything that can be done is already being done.

The waiting is the hardest part. Here are some tips to help you through your adoption wait as a family, and here are a few things you can do to help minimize your wait time. In the meantime, stay strong!


2016 Adoption Tax Credit

With tax season around the corner many of our families are wondering what the Adoption Tax Credit is and how it works. Below we have provided a brief explanation of the Adoption Tax Credit, the updated amount available to families for the 2016 tax season, and an infographic to help families understand how the Adoption Tax Credit works.

What is the Federal Adoption Tax Credit?

The Federal Adoption Tax Credit can help families offset the costs of qualifying adoption expenses, making adoption possible for some families who could not otherwise afford it. Families who adopted a child, or tried to adopt a child, and paid qualifying expenses may be eligible for the credit.

With the passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 the Adoption Tax Credit became a permanent part of the tax code. However, the tax credit is not refundable, which means that only those individuals with tax liability (taxes owed) will benefit.

The maximum adoption tax credit for 2016 is $13,460. The Adoption Tax Credit limit is based on modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) and is recalculated each year based on current cost of living. For the 2016 Adoption Tax Credit, the maximum amount available will begin to phase out for families with MAGI above $201,920 and will be unavailable to families with incomes around $241,9200 or above.

The infographic below further outlines how the federal adoption tax credit operates:



Waiting through the Holidays: Advice for Hopeful Families

With so many holidays on the way, it’s officially time to get into the holiday spirit! But if you are waiting for an adoption opportunity, it can be harder to enjoy the festivities.

To all of our waiting families out there, here are just a few things to keep in mind this holiday season:

Take Care of Yourself

Holidays can feel stressful when you’re waiting for an adoption opportunity, but don’t forget about your physical and mental health – and that might include taking time for yourself. If you can’t make it to every family event or gathering, it’s okay to bow out and do what’s best for you.

You can also be there for your partner. Both of you will probably need to talk about your feelings during this time, and you can support each other by communicating openly and simply being there for one another.

Surround Yourself with Loved Ones

The holidays are all about family, and your family and loved ones can be a great source of support. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them for when you need advice, emotional support, or just a little company.

Spending time with loved ones can also take your mind off of the wait. While you’re with others, find activities you enjoy that aren’t related to adoption, and consider spending time on things you won’t have as much time for once the baby arrives.

Look Toward the Future

It’s impossible to know exactly how long any particular family will wait for an adoption opportunity – but no matter how long the journey is, so many families look back and say that things turned out exactly the way they were supposed to. The adoption process can be long and complex, but it’s helpful to remember what is waiting at the end of that journey: your baby.

Happy holidays to all of our waiting families!


18 Ways to Fundraise for Your Adoption

adoptwithoutdebtAdmittedly, the cost of adoption is fairly high and it can be difficult for some adoptive families to pay for their adoption without going into debt. While tax credits, adoption grants and employee benefit programs can help alleviate some of the costs they don’t always cover everything.

In these cases, adoptive families often turn to fundraising to help pay for the cost of adoption. With the help of Julie Gumm’s Adopt Without Debt, we have complied a list of 18 adoption fundraiser ideas that can help pay for your adoption.

Search, Sort and Sell

Look around your house and garage for old/unused items (toys, clothes, exercise equipment, electronics, etc.). Sell what you can and donate the rest. Earn some extra cash while also decluttering your house!

Start by posting larger items, such as exercise equipment and electronics on sites like Ebay or Craigslist (note: anything too big to ship should be listed on Craigslist). Next, try consignment stores for name brand items. Whether it’s adult clothing, children’s clothing or even accessories or toys, there’s probably a re-run store near you who will buy items that are in good condition.

Or you could simply sell everything in a garage sale. Some families have had major garage sale success by asking for donations to their adoption fund instead of using set prices on items.

Sell Your Craft

Turn a hobby into a money maker! Etsy is a great place to sell handmade items such as artwork, jewelry, quilts, clothing, or anything else you can think of. If you’re skilled with a camera, consider booking photo sessions. This can be done on nights and weekends and is a great way to boost your adoption fund!

Puzzle Piece Sponsors

Buy or create a 200-500 piece puzzle and ask friends/family etc. to sponsor a piece for a certain dollar amount ($5-10). When someone buys a piece have them write their name on the back so their role in your adoption journey will always be remembered. When all the pieces are sold, assemble the puzzle and hang in the child’s room.

Some adoptive families have also done this with quilts. Buy enough fabric squares to assemble a quilt and sell each square for $5-10. Have permanent markers nearby so everyone can write a message to your family or the child on their square. When all the pieces are sold, sew them all together to make a beautiful and personalized quilt.

Baby Bottle Campaign 

Buy bottles in bulk and design a paper flyer to go in each bottle telling about your adoption. Then distribute them to friends, family, businesses, churches, schools, daycares- whoever is willing to put their spare change in the baby bottle. Give them one month to see if they can fill the bottle and then collect them. It’s amazing how quickly spare change can add up!

Bake Sale

Gather all of your close friends and family and bake like crazy! Bake pies, cookies, cakes, cupcakes, cake pops, rice crispy treats, anything you want. When you’re done take all delicious goodies and host a bake sale in your neighborhood, at your church or your kids’ school. This is a great fundraiser that can be combined with another fundraising event, such as a 5k, movie night or benefit dinner!

T-Shirt Sale

Design a t-shirt that symbolizes your adoption journey and sell them to friends, family, and strangers. Do it yourself through a local printing shop or use a company like Create My Tee or TFund to process orders for you.

Not digging the t-shirts? You could also sell sweatshirts, tote bags, bracelets or water bottles. This is another great fundraising idea that could be combined with a larger fundraising event.

50/50 Raffle

A 50/50 raffle is best when paired with an event like a 5k, benefit dinner, or sporting tournament. The adoptive family sells raffle tickets for $2-5 per ticket. At the end of the event draw one ticket and split the collected money with the winner 50/50. This is a fun and easy way to boost your adoption fund!

Car Wash

Take a trip back to your childhood with this one! Gather all the kids and family members you can and host a car wash fundraiser. Choose a hot summer day and have fun playing in the water while you wash cars.

Movie Night

Find a spot where you can play a family-friendly movie for several people (outdoor spaces are perfect for this kind of event!). Pick a classic movie that everyone loves, or a new favorite, and invite everyone to attend. Ask for $10 per family and provide popcorn and drinks for them to enjoy during the movie.

Benefit Dinner

Benefit Dinner’s don’t have to be as fancy as they sound. Many adoptive families prefer to do these fundraisers in a more casual style – common meals include pancakes, spaghetti and chili. Ask for $3-5 for individual tickets (offering a discounted family rate) and give attendees the option to donate more if they’d like to.  Gather volunteers who can help prepare the food, serve food, collect money and clean up.

Give your dinner a boost by selling baked goods, t-shirts and/or raffle tickets!

Trivia Night

Host a fun-filled trivia night at home or at a local restaurant where guests can get into teams and let their competitive sides loose. Ask for a certain rate per team and have a variety of categories from kid’s shows to American history so everyone can participate!

Host a 5k Run/Walk

Hosting a 5k is a bigger commitment than many other fundraising ideas, but they can be so much fun and could potentially help you to raise thousands of dollars toward your adoption fund. Families will often charge anywhere from $25 to $50 per person (with a discounted rate for families). This generally includes a t-shirt, support and water during the run, and a healthy snack after.

Add giveaways to make it more fun for everyone! Ask for donation from friends and family and even local businesses that can be used in a raffle during the race. Sell raffle tickets before the race for $1-5 and draw names once everyone has crossed the finish line.

Bonus: Use the event to educate others on adoption by providing adoption information and facts.

Silent Auction

Like a 5k, a silent auction can be a major time commitment, but can help raise a lot of money toward your adoption. You’ll need to start by asking for donations. Friends and family who have special skills, such as photography or crafting, can donate their time or creations to be auctioned. Or you can ask local businesses to donate products or gift cards to be auctioned. However, many companies have regulations on donations and may not be able to donate.  If you don’t want to host a silent auction on its own, combine it with a benefit dinner!

Golf or Softball Tournament

Tournaments are another big commitment but can be so much fun for everyone involved! First you will need to find a location and set a date and time. Depending on the number of entering teams you may need to spread the event over two or three days. Or all-night tournaments can be added fun, when possible of course! You will also need to find volunteer score keepers and/or umpires to help with the event.  Ask for a base fee per team or individual, depending on the sport, and provide fun trophies and t-shirts for the winners.

Fundraising Letters

An old standby, fundraising letters can be sent to family, friends, neighbors and businesses. Many families find it difficult to ask for donations in this way, but instead of asking them to help you add a child to your family, ask them to help a child in need.

Go Fund Me

Go Fund Me is a great way for adoptive families to fund their adoptions. Any one from relatives, to neighbors, to strangers across the country can donate to help you reach your goals. Creating a page is simple and sharing your page and your story is easy through social media.

Just Love Coffee

Just Love Coffee is an amazing company that was founded by adoptive parents and sells fair trade coffee from around the world. The company offers a fundraising program where adoptive families can sell the coffee for up to 12 months and receive $5 for every bag of coffee sold.

Partner with Lifesong for Orphans for the Both Hands Project

This is an incredible, unique opportunity where you can work with your church or community to serve a local widow, as you fundraise for your adoption.

18 Ways to Fundraise for Your Adoption

Related Links:


5 Things Not to Say to a Couple Grieving Infertility

Many people in the adoption world understand the emotional impact infertility can have on a hopeful family. But everybody who faces infertility copes and manages their emotions in a different way, so it may be difficult to know how to talk about it.

To shed some light on the subject, we’ve provided 5 noteworthy examples of things you should never, ever say to people dealing with infertility:

1. Well, it could be worse.

Most of the time, people who say this are well-intentioned, but it minimizes the emotional challenges caused by infertility. Do not invalidate the feelings of someone grieving infertility – just let them cope in their own way, and on their own time.

2. Maybe you should try…

Most of the time, couples dealing with infertility don’t need suggestions from anyone other than a doctor. And if they have already decided to stop trying to get pregnant, unsolicited advice is even less helpful. If someone is grieving infertility, it’s more than likely that they’ve looked into every possibility – and it’s frustrating when others assume they haven’t.

3. You’re trying too hard. You just have to relax.

This implies that a person’s infertility is his or her fault in some way. Infertility is never a result of trying too hard or not trying hard enough. Statements like these only serve to make hopeful families feel guilty over something that they can’t control.

4. Now you won’t have to deal with being pregnant!

So many hopeful parents would do anything for the opportunity to be pregnant and give birth to a child. Those who are facing infertility don’t want to hear other people talk about how bothersome or inconvenient pregnancy is.

5. You should just adopt.

Adoption is not a replacement for having biological children, and it doesn’t erase the grief of infertility. More importantly, there is no such thing as “just” adopting – the process can take years for some families and is a huge financial and emotional investment.

Infertility can be a challenging subject to talk about – but instead of focusing on what you shouldn’t say, focus on what you can do to support hopeful families in this position. The most valuable thing you can do is be there for them and listen.


The One Thing that is Affecting Your Wait Time

Waiting is the Hardest PartAsk any adoptive family out there and they will tell you that the wait between becoming an active family and having their child placed in their arms was the hardest part of the entire adoption process. There’s so much excitement and anticipation as you wait for that little bundle of joy, but everything is out of your control.

Fortunately, you can drastically reduce your wait time by changing one simple thing: your APQ.

The answers you provided on your APQ are the factors that determine which potential birth parents see your profile. You see, our algorithm looks at your answers and matches them to specific desires and traits that a birth mother has listed in her questionnaire. So, if your APQ does not line up with an expectant mother’s wishes, your family will not be presented as a possible match.

When an adoptive family has a more restrictive APQ, the list of potential birth parents they could be matched with is drastically reduced, which means longer wait times. On the other hand, an adoptive family that has a more open APQ could possibly be matched with a much larger pool of expectant parents, which means (you guessed it) shorter wait times.

So what can you do to shorten your wait time?

If you’re concerned about your potential wait time, it might be a good decision to reevaluate your APQ and talk to your adoptive family specialist about potentially opening up to different situations. If there are situations that you were previously unsure about but are now comfortable with opening up to, let your specialist know.

Here are a few things that may be affecting your wait time:

Race. The truth of the matter is that there are very few babies born that are entirely one race (ie. Caucasian, African American, Hispanic). The majority of infants placed through our agency are a combination of two or more races. Being open to many different races is the best way to shorten your wait time as it puts fewer restrictions on the types of expectant mothers you can be matched with.

Budget. Most of our adoption opportunities fall between $28,000 and $35,000, but there are those who fall outside of this range. The variance in cost is largely determined by living and medical expenses for birth mothers, so an expectant mother who needs more financial assistance will require a family with a higher adoption budget. Unfortunately, this is the area where families have the least flexibility. If there is way for you to raise your budget without putting your family in financial jeopardy, it might be a good thing to discuss with your partner.

Medical History. No one has a perfect family medical history, so it is unrealistic to expect one out of a potential birth mother. If you want to shorten your wait time, first check your preferences for medical history. At the very least, these preferences should reflect your own medical history. If there are still areas of concern, research the different conditions. Talk to doctors about the risk of conditions being passed from mother to child, you may be surprised at what you find.

Keep in mind when adjusting your APQ that you should always be 100% comfortable with your decisions. You should be ready and willing to accept any situation that falls within your APQ. If you’re not, then don’t make the change. Even if it does take a bit longer, the baby who is meant to be in your family will eventually find their way to you.


Drug Usage During Pregnancy: How it Affects Baby

Drug Usage Effects on BabyWhen adoptive families are asked what kinds of prenatal drug exposure they are open to in their child, their main concern is the health of their future child. In a perfect world, an adoptive family’s child will have had no drug exposure and will be born perfectly healthy.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that many babies placed for adoption have been exposed to some type of drug in utero.  Exposure can vary from very little to multiple times per day, and effects on the child can vary just as greatly. However, each of these babies has something in common: they’re in need of a loving family to care for and nurture them.

Before making any decisions regarding drug exposure, it is important that adoptive families understand the possible effects on the child. Below, we have identified the most commonly used drugs and the possible effects they may have on an unborn child.


Babies who are exposed to cigarette smoke in utero are more likely to be born premature, have low birth weight, and have weaker lungs than babies whose mothers did not smoke during pregnancy. They are also more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Low birth weight can lead to a variety of other health issues such as: Respiratory distress syndrome, increased risk of infection, low blood sugar, problems with feeding, and difficulty regulating body temperature.


When pregnant mothers drink, so do their babies, which can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). FASDs include a variety of physical and mental disabilities as well as emotional and behavioral problems.


There are very few studies that examine the effects of marijuana on developing fetuses making it difficult to say with any certainty what those effects may be.  There is little evidence of birth defects in children whose mothers smoked marijuana. However, marijuana use during pregnancy may be linked to low birth weight, hyperactivity, and some memory deficiencies.


Though many antidepressants have been deemed ok to use during pregnancy, none have been proven safe without question. Certain brands of antidepressants have been associated with rare lung problems in newborns, and others have associated with a small increase in fetal heart defects. However, the overall risks of birth defects remain extremely low.

Antidepressant usage, particularly in the last trimester of pregnancy, can cause discontinuation or withdraw symptoms in newborns – such as jitters or irritability. Though these symptoms can be difficult for a parent to witness, they are usually short-lived.

Anti-Convulsants/Seizure Medications

While there are risks to a developing baby whose mother is taking seizure medications, there is also a risk to babies whose mothers go through pregnancy with untreated seizures.

Pregnant women who experience seizures are at risk for trauma from falls or burns, premature labor, miscarriages, and low fetal heart rate due to lack of oxygen.  These risks are generally seen as greater than the risks associated with seizure medications.

Effects of seizure medications on babies are generally limited to congenital malformations. In women who take seizure medications, the risk of congenital malformations in babies is 4-6 percent. The most common malformations include cleft lip and clef palate, as well as problems with the heart, urinary or genital systems.


Knowledge of the effects of methamphetamine abuse during pregnancy is incredibly limited. However, some research points to increased rates of premature delivery, still birth, and placental abruption, as well as low birth weight, lethargy, heart and brain abnormalities, and lasting neurological deficits.

Methadone (OxyContin, Vicodin, morphine, etc.)

Though few studies have been done, methadone use during pregnancy is thought to increase the risk of smaller than normal head size and low birth weight. However, the biggest concern with fetuses exposed to methadone in utero is withdrawal symptoms after birth.


Heroin use during pregnancy has been said to cause placental abruption, premature birth, low birth weight, birth defects, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), still birth, and birth defects, as well as an increased risk of SIDS.  The most common effect on babies whose mothers used heroin during pregnancy is NAS or withdrawal symptoms after birth.

In addition, mothers who injected heroin into their system during pregnancy are at a much higher risk for contracting HIV and other diseases via needle sharing. These diseases can potentially be passed from mother to child.


While there have been very few studies done to evaluate the effects of ecstasy on unborn babies, it is thought to increase the risks of premature birth and low birth weight. Babies exposed to ecstasy in utero are more likely to suffer from NAS or withdrawal symptoms as well as a variety of cognitive impairments.

Cocaine/Crack Cocaine

The use of cocaine during pregnancy can have a variety of effects on babies, and it appears that the effects worsen when exposure is higher. When used early in pregnancy, cocaine is thought to affect the structure and function of the brain, which may predispose children to developmental, behavioral or cognitive problems. Additionally, babies exposed to cocaine in utero are at greater risk for premature birth, low birth weight and small size.

Amphetamines (Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, etc.)

Research on the effects of amphetamine use during pregnancy is extremely limited. However, there have been many adverse outcomes reported alongside amphetamine use. These include: premature birth, stillbirth, low birth weight, small size (including head circumference), cleft lip, heart defects, biliary atresia, hyperbilirubinemia (Jaundice), cerebral hemorrhage, systolic murmur and undescended testes.

Because the effects of many of these drugs have not been adequately studied, the above risks likely do not show the whole picture. Some of these effects may have been falsely attributed to the drug, and other possible effects may not have been listed.

Unfortunately, there is no way to predict how any one drug may affect a child. Variables such as, amount/length of drug exposure, time of exposure, use of more than one drug, and other environmental factors can drastically change the outcome of each pregnancy. The best thing adoptive families can to do is to learn as much as they can about the possible effects of these drugs, consult a physician or pediatrician, and decide what outcomes they fell comfortable accepting.


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