Drug Use During Pregnancy

It is common sense to know that drug use during pregnancy is bad for both the mother and baby. Yet there are about 4 percent of women in American who practice drug use during pregnancy leaving many babies with birth defects and other developmental problems.

Drug use during pregnancy can result in devastating effects for both the mother and the baby. However, many new mothers do not know they are pregnant during the early stages and continue to use illicit drugs. There are unfortunately other mothers who are simply too addicted to drugs to quit using them even when they know they are pregnant. In many situations, the pregnancy ends in miscarriage or still birth. If the baby does survive, they likely have physical deformations, loss of limbs,  poor facial development and other problems. The internal problems are also potentially severe when there is drug use during pregnancy. Some babies may not completely develop their internal organs, which can lead to an early death for the baby or problems growing up. Many babies also suffer from mental illness and handicapped mental development when there is drug use during pregnancy. There are also risks associated with prescription drugs and over the counter drugs when used during pregnancy. This is why it is important to consult with your doctor before taking any kind of medication, even just Tylenol or cough medicine. These types of drugs can be detrimental to the development of an unborn child. 

The risk found with pregnant mothers who use illicit drugs during pregnancy often results in cases of severe withdrawal symptoms, which can be harmful to the mother. However, continued drug use is harmful to the baby. Drugs can also cause internal damage to the mother's organs including her heart, which can result in cases of stroke, heart attack and other heart diseases. Other results of drug use during pregnancy include:

  • Congenital heart defects
  • Clubfoot
  • Cleft palate
  • Placental problems
  • Low birth weight
  • Still birth
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Miscarriage
  • Preterm labor
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Mental illness and disabilities 
  • Long-term learning difficulties
  • Other long-term health problems

The most common type of illegal drug used during pregnancy is marijuana. Some studies have suggested marijuana use is responsible for slowed fetal growth and increasing the likelihood of premature delivery. These effects from marijuana are often seen mostly in women who use the drug regularly - six or more times per week. After delivery, many babies will experience withdrawal symptoms like shaking, trembling and excessive crying. They have poor sleep patterns, and it takes them longer to adjust to live outside the womb.  Other drugs like ecstasy, methamphetamine, heroin, prescription pain killers and cocaine can cause much more serious effects in the unborn baby ranging from severe birth defects, to stroke once the baby is born to still birth and other causes of death for the infant. 

Treatment and prevention options:

While it is difficult to treat the unborn baby during pregnancy, there are ways the mother can seek treatment for her addiction and withdrawal symptoms by seeking professional of her doctor and possibly a counselor or therapist. This may help her realize the damage she is doing to her own body as well as that of her unborn baby. For babies that are born with developmental problems, doctors may be able to fix some problems with surgery and medication. However, other problems are life-long issues the child will have to deal with. Drug use during pregnancy is one of the worse practices a mother could do while pregnant. It is a way to damage not only herself, but most likely her baby. Another way to prevent something like this from happening is to start early. Stop using drugs immediately or well before you get pregnant. Often times, pregnant mothers who practice drug use during pregnancy also engage in other risky behaviors like unprotected sex, transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, smoking and drinking alcohol. All of which can cause severe problems for the baby. By not engaging in any of them, it is more likely that the baby will be happy and health upon delivery. If you or someone you know is on drugs and is pregnant, seek professional help immediately.

Source: marchofdimes.com, babyzone.com

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