From the very moment you learn that you are pregnant everything changes. Every decision you make now will affect the new life growing inside of you. Of course, as an expectant mother, you want to do everything that is best for your unborn child but it is not always easy. Depending on your current situation you may be under a high level of stress or you may be vulnerable to a harmful addiction. We all know that it is dangerous to engage in drugs and alcohol especially while pregnant. The following are some effects of substance abuse during pregnancy one should consider.
How Dangerous Drugs Reach The Fetus
Once believed to be a barrier for the fetus, it is now understood that the placenta actually acts as a sieve that allows a portion of whatever the mother consumes to reach the fetus. As a result, any dangerous substances will have detrimental effects on the developing unborn. Illicit drugs are not the only danger. Prescription and over the counter medications can also be injurious.
There are different factors that determine the extent of the medication’s damage; the elaboration stage of the fetus, the substance’s strength and doses, how much of the medication or recreational drug was absorbed by the mother, and the mother’s genetic disposition. It is best that you get immediate help for any chemical dependency before you experience the following grave outcomes.
1. Spontaneous Abortions
Abusing substances like inhalants and opioids during pregnancy can cause spontaneous abortions or miscarriages. Spontaneous abortions usually occur within the first trimester (first three months) or 20 weeks of pregnancy. Most miscarriages indicate that there was not proper development with the fetus. This experience can not only cause physical complications for the mother but emotional distress as well.
2. Low Birth Weight
Engaging in drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol, and smoking tobacco can increase the risk of premature births and low birth weights. This is concerning because the fetus has less time to develop in the uterus and a significant amount of its weight is increased during the last weeks of pregnancy. This may expose the baby to many chronic health complications in the future such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart problems.
3. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is when a baby dies suddenly without an explanation or signs of any health defects. Because this typically happens while the baby is asleep, it is also referred to as crib death. Very little is known of the cause of this condition, however, smoking during pregnancy and post-delivery have been linked.
4. Behavioral Problems
Drugs such as marijuana (heavy use) and alcohol can cause problematic behaviors in children that are not within the norm of their age. Some may even develop behavioral disorders such as; Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is categorized by having issues concentrating, displaying impulsive conduct, and being restless. Conduct disorder (CD) characteristics are repeated refusal to follow orders or listen to anyone in authority (parents or teachers), lack of fellow feeling, and lying habitually.
5. Developmental Delays
Prenatal drug use like alcohol and cocaine can have consequential bearings in developmental delays in children. Their cognitive skills and ability to process and manage information can be severely compromised. Which may result in learning disabilities, rapid mood shifts, and poor ability to make sound decisions. Not to mention the physical defects such as vision and hearing impairment, smaller brain and head size, joint malformations, and slow growth.
As discussed, there are serious consequences to abusing drugs while pregnant. It is important to note that some prescription medications may not be harmful to take BUT ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN before taking any medication! The health of you and your unborn child is too important. Be sure that you read the labels on everything, including over the counter drugs and supplements! Also, be careful about consuming coffee while pregnant because of its stimulating effects as it is considered a drug. You can never be too careful when advocating good health for your soon to be!