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Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on an Unborn Baby

Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on an Unborn Baby

If you're addicted to alcohol and/or drugs, you might want to consider delaying your decision to get pregnant. Drugs and alcohol have many negative effects on an unborn baby, read this article to learn more..
Zini Mehta
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Let's put it like this - when you drink or do drugs while you are pregnant, it's as if your unborn child is also doing the same thing. Studies have shown that consumption of alcohol and drugs during pregnancy can result in birth defects, low birth weight, premature labor and even miscarriage or maternal death. Children who are exposed to drugs and alcohol, while in the womb have many behavioral and learning difficulties as they grow up. This article helps you understand the effects of alcohol and drugs on a developing fetus.
Effects of Drugs on a Fetus
Substance abuse during pregnancy puts the child at great risk. Toxins generated in the mother's body, are passed to the child through the umbilical cord and adversely affect the development of the fetus. Let's look at the effects of different drugs:
Marijuana (Pot, Weed or Grass)
Smoking marijuana during pregnancy reduces the supply of oxygen to the fetus, as the level of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the blood increases. As a result the baby grows very slowly and does not gain weight. Use of marijuana during pregnancy has been liked to premature delivery. It is seen that after birth, children exposed to marijuana have various learning difficulties and behavioral problems.
Cocaine (Coke, Crack or Snow)
Cocaine enters the child's body through the placenta, and remains much longer than in the mother's body. Use of cocaine increases the risk of miscarriage, vaginal bleeding, placental abortion and birth defects. There are also chances that the baby will be a cocaine addict and will have to suffer withdrawal symptoms like muscle spasms, sleeplessness, feeding difficulties etc. In addition, there is a great risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). As child grows older they may also have learning difficulties and defective genitals and brain.
Methamphetamine (Meth, Crystal or Glass)
The effect of methamphetamine on the developing fetus is similar to the effects of cocaine. Taking methamphetamine during pregnancy increases the heart rate of the mother and child and affects the development of organs. It also increases the chances of premature labor, miscarriage and placental abortion. Babies that are born have low body weight and a small head. Long-term effects of methamphetamine include learning difficulties, the child may have a severe concentration problem.
Heroin (Smack, Junk or Brown)
Heroin is a very addictive drug that passes to the fetus through the umbilical cord. There are high chances that the child born will also be a heroin addict and will have to suffer withdrawal symptoms. Some of the symptoms include convulsions, sleep disorder, irritability, fever, diarrhea and joint stiffness. Use of heroin during pregnancy also increases the chance of low blood sugar, bleeding within the brain, difficulty in breathing, premature birth and infant death. Moreover, mothers who inject the drug and share needles are at a greater risk of contracting HIV and passing it on to the fetus.
LSD and PCP (Acid and Angel Dust)
Recreational drugs, PCP and LSD, cause violent behavior in the mother and she is likely to harm herself and the baby. The use of these drugs during pregnancy leads to poor muscle control, low birth weight, brain damage and withdrawal symptoms, if used very often. Symptoms include muscle spasms and lethargy. These drugs can also cause various genetic problems in the baby.
Prescription Drugs
Not just alcohol and drugs, but even the abuse of prescription drugs can have a negative effect on the fetus. The most commonly used prescription drugs are sleeping pills, painkillers, stimulants, cold medication, laxatives and antianxiety drugs. Abuse of prescription drugs during pregnancy can result in seizures, miscarriage or even premature labor. Like other drugs, children may be born with an addiction and have to suffer from withdrawal symptoms. Even over-the-counter vitamins can be harmful during pregnancy. It is best to consult your doctor and avoid any unnecessary medication.
Alcohol and Pregnancy
Drinking during pregnancy is a strict no no. Even wine and beer or anything that you consider light must be strictly avoided. No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy as it gets into your blood and goes to the fetus through the placenta. While the mother can metabolize the alcohol, it remains in the child's blood for a long time hampering development. The most infamous effect is the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS); a condition caused due to excessive consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. It leads to serious physical, mental and behavioral problems in the child.
Children affected by FAS have unusual physical features such as small eye opening, thin upper lip, small jaw, sunken nasal bridge and other joint and limb abnormalities. Let's take a look at some more problems that the child could face:
  • Low Birth Weight
  • Dysfunctional Organs
  • Learning Disorders
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Sleep Disorder
  • Microcephaly
  • Myopia
  • Hyperactivity
The above mentioned effects are not temporary, they last a lifetime, which can lead to a lot of emotional and physical pain. It also means huge medical bills; it's a big price to pay for a few drinks during pregnancy.
As you may have understood by now, there are way too many risks involved if you drink and do drugs during pregnancy. It's simple if you want a healthy child, do away with your bad habits. Get help from a counselor to deal with your addictions, only once you're clean should you consider having a child.