Drug Abuse When Pregnant

Pregnant woman's abdomen
Avoid drug abuse while pregnant to protect your baby's health.

Drug abuse when pregnant is serious business. An individual abusing drugs while pregnant can harm both herself and her unborn baby.

Facts About Substance Abuse During Pregnancy

Women do abuse drugs when they're pregnant. Just how many abuse drugs is hard to figure. Many researchers believe that some women don't seek pregnancy care if they're abusing drugs, out of fear, shame, or perhaps they just aren't thinking about prenatal care. Another issue is that many women abusing illicit drugs also smoke or drink. It can be tough to say if alcohol or crack harm a baby more. In any case, while a few organizations have some statistics, exact ongoing figures are hard to come by.

Statistics aside, one thing that everyone can agree on is that all drugs can have harmful effects on a pregnancy, but that some drugs seem far worse than others. Following are some drugs and their side effects related to pregnancy:

Facts About Alcohol Use

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) notes that there is no safe type or amount of alcohol during pregnancy. Any amount of alcohol, even one drink, can have detrimental affects on a baby's development. Some of the common issues that can occur for a baby if a woman has an alcohol addiction during her pregnancy include:

  • Premature birth.
  • A low birth weight baby.
  • Vision and hearing problems; including major issues like blindness.
  • Problems with concentration and focus.
  • Issues with completing common and simple tasks.
  • Trouble sleeping and eating properly.
  • Learning disabilities related to all subjects.
  • May need medical, emotional, or institutional care for the rest of their lives.
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which will cause not only mental and physical disabilities, but noticeable appearance characteristics. This means that babies born with FAS are easy to spot.

These problems above can occur even if your baby makes it to full term. Drug abuse when pregnant can also cause miscarriage.

The NIAAA also says that even if you had drank during a previous pregnancy, and your baby was born healthy, that may not be the case for a current pregnancy. All fetuses respond differently to the effects of alcohol. You may not be so lucky this time around. This is the time to get help. If you are pregnant and have a drinking problem, or if your loved one is pregnant and abuses alcohol, following are some resources that can help:

Facts About Smoking

Cigarette smoking can seem pretty harmless compared to something like a crack addiction. The truth though, is that in pregnant women, smoking tobacco can result in dangerous side effects for an unborn baby.

A recent Discovery Health article noted that around 13 percent of U.S. women smoke while pregnant. Some of the most common side effects that smoking can have for babies include:

  • Miscarriage.
  • Ectopic pregnancy - which not only ends your current pregnancy, but puts you at risk for later fertility issues.
  • Fetal brain damage.
  • Problems with the birth, include a high possibility of premature birth.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Developmental issues after birth, such as, learning and physical disabilities.
  • Infant death - based on the problems caused from the time of exposure to nicotine.

The best news about pregnant women and smoking is that pregnant women have the number one highest success rate for quitting. So, if you're pregnant, it's a great time to quit, especially since most pregnant women experience a natural distaste for tobacco during pregnancy due to hormones. If you're looking for resources to quit smoking try the following articles.

Facts About Illicit Drug Use

The March of Dimes relates that they estimate around four percent of pregnant women to be illicit drug users. Drug abuse when pregnant means a woman is using street drugs, drugs like crack, heroin, marijuana, cocaine, Ecstasy and other amphetamines. Side effects for a baby of a mother who is using illicit drugs may include:

  • Premature births and low birth weight
  • A baby can experience extreme withdrawal symptoms at birth - some of which have long-lasting effects
  • Learning and behavioral problems
  • A wide array of both physical and mental birth defects
  • Excessive crying during the baby years
  • Stillbirth
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Clubfoot
  • Poor overall development after birth - meaning slow growth of both brain and body
  • After birth jitters, shaking, extreme tiredness, and breathing difficulties

Seeking Help Can Save Lives

That's just the tip of the iceberg. Women who abuse drugs and/or alcohol during their pregnancies are putting themselves and their babies at great risk for all sorts of problems. To get more help, visit the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator.

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Drug Abuse When Pregnant