Drug Abuse and Pregnancy – Two Lives are at Risk!

Are you pregnant or are you planning to have a baby? If this describes your situation, then think of this as a warning.

Combination of Drug Abuse and Pregnancy Can Be Lethal

Firstly, you have to accept certain ideas. Secondly, you can no longer take risks with your health. Remember what you put in your body affects your unborn child too. You have to banish all unhealthy habits that you may have. This means NO DRUGS.

Illicit drugs harm not only you but also your unborn baby. The negative effects of drug abuse on your child can continue into adolescence and adulthood.

It’s not only illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and meth which harm the fetus. Socially acceptable drugs like alcohol and tobacco can also damage the developing fetus. Over-the-counter and prescription drugs you may take without harm can adversely affect the unborn child.

A pregnant woman needs to be strong and healthy both for herself and her unborn baby. It is imperative that she learns about the dangers of drug abuse during pregnancy. This knowledge can be a powerful motivator. It can help her adopt a healthier lifestyle. Even if you’re not pregnant, please read on and pass the information to a would-be mother. You can save two lives!

What are the Effects of Drug Abuse on the Fetus?

  • Developmental delays
  • Structural defects in the brain
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Birth defects like those affecting the urinary tract or the heart
  • Stillbirth
  • Strokes that can cause brain damage or even death

The fetus receives the nutrients and oxygen it needs to survive and develop from the mother through the placenta. Like oxygen and nutrients, drugs taken by the mother can also cross the placental barrier. As a result, they can reach her baby’s tissues and organs.

Here’s how drugs can adversely affect the fetus:

  • Toxic elements in drugs, like nicotine and cancer-causing agents in tobacco, can directly harm the fetus. Consequently, it can cause organ damage, birth defects, and even death.
  • Drugs can inhibit the functionality of the placenta. For instance, drugs can narrow blood vessels. Therefore, the fetus receives less oxygen and nutrients from the mother. This can cause low birth weight and/or under-developed organs.
  • Drugs can indirectly affect how the placenta functions. Many drugs lower blood pressure. If the mother’s blood pressure drops too rapidly, there is less blood flow to the placenta. Again, this reduces the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus.
  • Some drugs trigger abnormal muscle contractions. If the muscles of the uterus contract forcefully, it may reduce or disrupt the blood supply to the fetus. Abnormal muscle contraction in late stages of pregnancy can also trigger preterm labor.

What are the Effects of Pre-Natal Drug Abuse on the Child?

  • Exhibiting withdrawal symptoms like irritability, excessive crying, and trembling
  • Having difficulty feeding
  • Failing to thrive
  • Having a small head that indicates low IQ
  • Showing brain problems like difficulty processing and remembering information or paying attention
  • Having trouble at school and work
  • Showing behavior problems that make it difficult to form and keep relations

Drug Abuse and PregnancyThe effects of in utero drug exposure continue to manifest after the child birth. Unfortunately, it goes well into adolescence and adulthood sometimes.

Newborn babies with exposure to drugs exhibit withdrawal symptoms. As a result, it might require treatment and involve a lengthy hospital stay. Maternal abuse of drugs like opioids can cause neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in newborns. These babies have an higher risk of experiencing seizures and developing breathing problems.

Maternal abuse of alcohol greatly increases the risk of the child developing fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. These disorders cause abnormal facial features, stunted growth, vision and hearing difficulties. In addition, there is also impaired functioning of the central nervous system. Children with FAS or FASD often suffer from cognitive and behavioral deficiencies. These manifest as learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, and behavioral abnormalities. Many symptoms of FAS and FASD continue throughout the life of the person.

Low birth weight, premature delivery, and feeding difficulty just after birth also cause a number of problems. Their effects may continue till the adolescent years of the child. These effects are a weak immunity, slow or stunted physical growth, inadequate organ development, and impaired mental and emotional development.

What are the Effects of Drug Abuse on Pregnant Women?

  • Miscarriage during early pregnancy
  • Preterm labor
  • Placenta problems that inhibit the delivery of nutrients to the fetus
  • Indifference to personal hygiene
  • Neglect of one’s health
  • Increased risk of indulging in or being exposed to drug-related violence

Maternal drug abuse harms the fetus in several indirect ways.

A person addicted to drugs usually spends most of her physical and mental energies trying to sustain her habits. She probably doesn’t have the willingness nor the ability to take care of herself. Eating nutritious meals, practicing healthy hygiene habits, and keeping up with the doctor’s appointments aren’t her priorities. The results are devastating for her baby. Consequently, the fetus doesn’t receive proper nutrition. Furthermore, the risk of the mother contracting some infection and then passing it to her unborn child is higher.

The would-be mother addicted to drugs may visit dangerous places and have bad friends. This can increase her risk of exposure to drug-related violence. Of course, physical violence directed towards a pregnant woman can harm the fetus.

Are All Drugs Dangerous During Pregnancy?

You should be wary of taking any drug during pregnancy. The following are some of the drugs and substances that may harm the fetus.

  • Illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and all other substances of abuse scheduled by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
  • Social drugs like tobacco and alcohol
  • Many over-the-counter and prescription medicines
  • Many natural dietary supplements; some OTC vitamins
  • Caffeine in large amounts

Drug Abuse and PregnancyBabies of mothers who abuse cocaine during pregnancy tend to have cognitive difficulties. They are also at a greater risk of being born with various heart defects and the urinary tract. Abusing cocaine or methamphetamine increases the risk of miscarriage early in the pregnancy and preterm labor later.

Similarly, babies of mothers who smoke cigarettes during pregnancy have an increased risk of being born with heart defects.

Drinking even a small amount of alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of the child developing FAS or FASD.

It’s easy to understand how illicit drugs, alcohol, and tobacco harm the fetus. However, it may come as a surprise to many that OTC and prescription drugs can also harm the unborn baby. For instance, there is a belief that meclizine, the drug for nausea, motion sickness, and vomiting, will harm the fetus. Although not proven in human studies, meclizine has been shown to cause birth defects in laboratory rats. Scientists proved that the medicine thalidomide causes severe birth defects in human beings. Isotretinoin, commonly prescribed to treat skin disorders, can cause birth defects. This is if a woman conceives within two weeks after stopping this slow-release drug.

Additionally, caffeine is a “drug”. The mother should only have it in moderate quantities during pregnancy. Doctors believe that excessive caffeine intake during pregnancy can cause low birth weight and irritability in newborn babies.

Above all, there is NO “SAFE” DRUG to take during pregnancy.

Is There a Safe Time to Take Drugs During Pregnancy?

There is NO “SAFE TIME” to take drugs during pregnancy. Drugs can harm your unborn baby whenever you take them during pregnancy. The major organs develop within 70 days of conceiving. The central nervous system develops during the second and third trimesters. Moreover, the other organs develop functionally during this period.

For instance, exposure to certain drugs during 17-70 days of conceiving can cause severe birth defects. This is because all the major organs develop during this period. Drug abuse during the last 12 weeks of pregnancy increases the risk of preterm delivery.

pregnancy and drug abuse

Drug Abuse and Pregnancy Statistics

Take a look at the following numbers; they prove how rampant drug abuse during pregnancy is in the United States:

  • As many as 625,000 infants have exposure to prenatal substance abuse annually in the U.S.
  • About 50 percent of pregnant women take prescription and OTC medicine and use illicit and social drugs during pregnancy.
  • Only about 20 percent of the women who smoke can quit during pregnancy, according to the Merck Manual.
  • About 90 percent of all drug-abusing women in the U.S. are of reproductive age. This is according to the findings of a study published in Current Opinion in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

What Should Pregnant Women Do to NOT Expose Their Unborn Babies to Drugs?

  • Seek professional help when quitting any addiction to illicit drugs.
  • Stop drinking alcohol.
  • Stop smoking cigarettes.
  • Read labels carefully before taking over-the-counter medicines.
  • Inform your doctor if you are pregnant or are trying to conceive but have to take medications
  • Talk to your doctor before trying any “natural” or herbal remedy.

It goes without saying that you MUST NOT use illicit drugs if you’re pregnant or are trying to get pregnant. But going cold turkey can harm you. A doctor will have to help you manage some drug withdrawal symptoms because they can be severe. Are you dependent on any illicit drug, have alcoholism, or are addicted to cigarettes? Make sure that you get in touch with a doctor and chart a course of treatment.

Do not take any OTC drug without reading the label. Most manufacturers mention whether or not a drug is safe for pregnant women. If you are unsure, talk to your doctor first. This also holds true for OTC vitamins. They may have a higher concentration of nutrients than what is safe for your baby. Talk to your doctor to learn about specially-formulated prenatal vitamins that are safe for both mom and baby.

Prescription drugs to treat or manage a disorder cause about 2-3 percent of all birth defects in the U.S. However, you may have asthma, hypertension, epilepsy, or depression. As a result, you need to take medicines to manage these serious conditions during pregnancy.

Ensure that your doctor knows you are pregnant. That way, he or she can prescribe medicines that are safe for you and your baby. For instance, the anticoagulant heparin, prescribed to prevent blood clots, is safer for pregnant women than warfarin. Or if you are on antidepressants, depending on your symptoms, your doctor may gradually reduce the dose. This may happen during the last trimester and stop the drug before the baby is born.

Remember that “natural” or “herbal” may not always be safe for you or your unborn baby. Want to use natural dietary supplements like herbs, megavitamins, amino acids, or minerals? You should speak to your doctor first.

Ultimately, every would-be mom wants to do what is best for her baby. Some pregnant women are not aware how drug abuse can harm the fetus. We need to educate them. Some other women find it difficult to quit using drugs because addiction is a disease. Doctors manage and treat it medically. In conclusion, pregnant women need lots of help, and we should.

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