Women who are pregnant or wanting to become pregnant should not drink, smoke, or abuse drugs. Abusing these substances could cause substantial harm and have serious side effects on the child from the time it is in the womb to post birth. Each of these harmful substances could entail damaging consequences if a child has exposure to them in utero. This can lead to physical, emotional, learning, and social impairments for a child.
There are a number of illegal drugs that are especially harmful to an unborn child. Drug use could have extremely harmful effects on the child before it is born, post birth, or even later in life. Pregnant women who abuse harsh drugs, such as cocaine and heroin are putting their baby’s lives in jeopardy. For example, stated by March of Dimes: Working Together For Stronger, Healthier Babies; the use of heroin while pregnant may cause the mother to go into premature labor or possibly have a stillbirth. Injecting this drug during pregnancy with a shared needle may also put the mother and baby at risk of contracting HIV. As a result, the long-term effects of this drug may cause learning and behavioral problems for the child.
Equally damaging as stated by March of Dimes, the use of cocaine while pregnant can increase the risk of miscarriage or cause the baby to grow inadequately. Some studies suggest that cocaine-exposed babies are at increased risk of birth defects involving the urinary tract system and possibly other birth defects. Cocaine may cause an unborn baby to have a stroke, which can result in irreversible brain damage.
If exposed to cocaine during pregnancy babies tend to have smaller heads and are subject to learning disabilities later in life. According to the National Institute of Health, there may be as many as 45,000 cocaine-exposed babies per year. The long-term effects of this drug can produce mental retardation, cerebral palsy or possibly death. Undoubtedly, another harmful drug methamphetamine, better known as meth can have similar startling effects as that of cocaine. Using meth while pregnant is a dangerous combination and is not a good idea just as all the other drugs. According to Medical News, a study was done between meth-exposed children and non-exposed children. There were 29 three and four-year-old children whose mothers used meth while pregnant and 37 unexposed children of the same ages participating in the study. The MRI scans used diffusion tensor imaging to help measure the diffusion of molecules in a child’s brain, which can indicate abnormal microscopic brain structures that might reflect abnormal brain development. The scans showed that children with prenatal meth exposure had differences in the white matter structure and maturation of their brains compared to unexposed children. The children with prenatal meth exposure had up to four percent lower diffusion of molecules in white matter of their brains. The results suggested that children exposed to meth had accelerated brain development in an abnormal pattern and explained why some children with exposure to meth had greater development problems later in life. Another important drug not to use while pregnant is marijuana. Many believe that it is not a “big deal” to use marijuana while pregnant, but actually, it is. This drug is the most frequently used illicit drug among women of childbearing age in the United States as stated by March of Dimes. Marijuana usage by pregnant women can slow fetal growth and increase chances of having a premature birth. After being born the babies can have withdrawal symptoms, such as jitteriness, drowsiness, and breathing problems. In addition, this drug can reduce fertility in women and men who are trying to conceive. Drug use can also contribute to other unhealthy substances such as drinking while pregnant.
Drinking during pregnancy can have similar damaging effects to the baby equal to that of drug use. According to March of Dimes, recent government surveys indicate that about 1 in 12 pregnant women drink during pregnancy. About 1 in 30 pregnant women report binge drinking five or more drinks on any one occasion. Women who binge drink or drink heavily greatly increase the risk of alcohol-related damage to their babies. Medline Plus states that a pregnant woman who drinks any amount of alcohol is at risk, since no safe levels of alcohol use have been determined. Although drinking alcohol anytime while pregnant is harmful, alcohol appears to be the most harmful during the first three months of pregnancy. When a pregnant woman engages in drinking, she is subjecting the unborn baby to numerous health problems. Some of the effects as stated by Medline Plus include insufficient poor growth in the womb and after birth, decreased muscle tone, poor coordination, and delayed mental development. Significant functional problems can also occur in three or more major areas: cognitive thinking, speech, movement, and social skills. Other problems detected for infants who have exposure to alcohol have been heart murmurs or other related heart problems in which smoking can have similar reactions.
Smoking during pregnancy can cause many related effects as those of drug use and drinking. Some of the similar effects include delivering prematurely, babies having a low birth weight and stillbirth. March of Dimes also states that when a woman smokes during pregnancy she is exposing the baby to dangerous chemicals such as nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar. Smoking can also damage the baby’s lungs. New research by March of Dimes shows that third hand smoke is considered a health hazard. Third- hand smoke consists of toxic gases and particles left behind from cigarette or cigar smoke. These toxins remains include lead, arsenic, and carbon monoxide and cling to clothes, hair, couches, and carpets well after the smoke from the cigarette has cleared the room. Breathing these toxins by babies and young children can cause significant health problems such as asthma, cancer, and learning disorders.
Exposure from any of these substances on a young life before and after birth poses great risks with possibly lasting, and potentially deadly effects. It is imperative that pregnant women take heed to all the great dangers that could cause substantial harm to themselves and their babies. There are numerous resources where a pregnant woman can acquire treatment. During pregnancy, it is extremely important for a woman to eat healthy and take care of her body; after all, she is carrying and caring for a precious life to be.
Chang, M.D., Linda. The Medical News. American Academy of Neurology, 4 April 2009.Web. 2 Dec 2010. http://www.news-medical.net/news/2009/04/15/48407.aspx Homepage. March of Dimes Foundation, 2010. Web. 2 Dec 2010. http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/alcohol_illicitdrug.html
United States. National Institute of Health. Med Line Plus. National Library of Medicine, 29 Nov 2010.Web. 2 Dec 2010. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000911.htm.
United States. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institute on Drug Abuse,2010. Web. 5 Dec 2010. http://archives.drugabuse.gov/about/welcome/aboutdrugabuse/magnitude/