Pregnancy: the Effects of Alcohol and Substance Abuse on Fetal Development

Topics: Pregnancy, Fetal alcohol syndrome, Prenatal development Pages: 13 (4508 words) Published: February 26, 2013
Pregnancy: The Effects of Alcohol and Substance Abuse on Fetal Development Natalie Fontanella
Liberty University Online

This paper examined the effects of alcohol and substance abuse on fetal development in expecting mothers. The critical periods of fetal development during pregnancy are reviewed and discussed in order to determine the effects alcohol and substance can cause during certain stages. In order to gain a more efficient understanding of the effects different substances can have on fetal development the following substances were studied: (1) alcohol, (2) cocaine, (3) opioids, (4) nicotine (smoking), and (5) cannabis sativa (marijuana). Each substance (previously listed) examined was provided with supporting evidenced of past research. Developmental (i.e. physical and mental) impairments were found to be common amongst the general population of newborn infants and children exposed to alcohol and drug substances in utero. Use of alcohol and drug substances during pregnancy not only put expecting mothers own health at risk, but their fetuses as well. Providing expecting mothers with proper treatment for alcohol and substance use has proven to be an effective method in reducing the risk of impairing their fetus’s development (i.e. physical, and mental) during pregnancy and later into childhood. It is essential to provide general awareness to the public about the affects that alcohol and substance abuse can have on fetal development and help pregnant women seek proper care.

Pregnancy: The Effects of Alcohol and Substance Abuse on Fetal Development Today alcohol and substance abuse is continuing to increase across the general population, particularly among expecting mothers (Cohen &Inaba, 2007). Many infants being born today suffer from severe physical, mental, and behavioral deformities and impairments due to alcohol and substance exposure in utero (Cohen & Inaba, 2007). Research has been continuously conducted in order to examine the effects different substances can have on a developing fetuses growth (i.e. physical, mental, and behavioral) in utero and after birth. The majority of their findings indicate a strong correlation between the time, type and amount of substances mothers use during their pregnancy and the effects it has on their fetuses (Cohen & Inaba, 2007). The purpose of this paper is to address these issues through several different concepts: (a) first, what are the critical levels of development in utero?, (b) an in depth review on substances associated with fetal impairments (i.e. alcohol, cocaine, opioids, nicotine, and cannabis sativa (marijuana)), supported by scientific evidence and possible treatment, and (d) identifying substance abuse in expecting mothers and reducing harm to the fetus. Critical Periods of Fetal Development

The first critical period of fetal development is known as the germ cell period. This begins when a sperm and egg unite and their genetic information is fused together (Office of Children’s Health Protection, 2003). During this period exposure to any form of toxicant substances (i.e. alcohol and drug substances) can potentially harm the germ cells development. This can have a direct impact on not only the mother’s fertility, but also her future child’s health (Office of Children’s Health Protection, 2003). After the germ cells have developed past what is known as a single-cell zygote, they are now identified as a fetus (meaning they are capable of living outside of the mothers womb) and have reached the embryonic and fetal period of development (Office of Children’s Health Protection, 2003). The fetus grows increasingly fast during this period, because it is consider more vulnerable to environmental and substance exposures than during other stages of development (Office of Children’s Health Protection, 2003). This is due to the fact that major organs are beginning to form, grow and develop, which will continue throughout the remainder of the...
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