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Taking drugs during pregnancy harms unborn babies

Taking drugs during pregnancy harms unborn babies

11-15 | CDAH Team

Every time a person abuses illicit drugs, he or she increases his or her risk of developing serious physical and psychological damages. Additionally, illicit drugs are known for causing numerous cracks and breaks in families, communities, etc. Depending on one’s age, gender, etc., the repercussions of drug abuse are different.

Drugs can turn a person’s life upside down. When an expecting mother is exposed to such life-threatening drugs, she not only puts her life at risk but also that of the fetus. Douglas H. Sandberg explains how the placenta, considered as a barrier to toxins consumed by the mother, is actually a filter that allows drugs and other toxic substances to penetrate. As a result, anything consumed by the mother reaches the fetus through the umbilical cord. Therefore, when a pregnant woman consumes any kind of illicit drugs, she tends to transfer toxins to the fetus.

Subsequently, the fetus being sensitive to hard drugs fails to eliminate the toxins from the body that result in various developmental discrepancies related to the brain, bones, limbs, etc. They are also at a high risk of developing increased dependence on drugs. Moreover, pregnant women consuming such drugs run an increased risk of developing other problems, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight, premature birth, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and even maternal death. Furthermore, drug use during later pregnancy inflicts critical issues related to the central nervous system (CNS) on the baby. However, the risks associated with drug use during pregnancy also rely on other factors like:

  • Type of drug used
  • The point at which the drug was used
  • The number of times the drug was used

The following information can help one figure out the potentiality of drugs and their effects on the fetus:

  • Heroin: Heroin use during pregnancy can lead to neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Being a highly addictive drug, heroin can pass through the placenta to reach the fetus. The penetration of heroin to the fetus leads to NAS, which escalates the dependency ratio of the fetus along with the mother. The key symptoms of NAS include excessive crying, fever, irritability, seizures, slow weight gain, tremors, diarrhea, vomiting and possibly death. Furthermore, heroin use during pregnancy is also connected to an increased vulnerability to premature birth, low birth weight, respiratory issues, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), bleeding within the brain (intracranial hemorrhage) and infant death.
  • Cocaine: Most women addicted to cocaine during pregnancy runs the risk of delivering a ‘crack baby.’ The prenatal exposure to cocaine is associated with a broad range of cognitive impairments ranging from attention deficits to severe emotional problems. To reduce such risks, cocaine-using pregnant mothers must receive appropriate medical and psychological treatments.
  • Marijuana: The chemicals present in marijuana, particularly tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can pass through the placenta to the fetus and disrupt the supply of oxygen needed for development. The babies exposed to marijuana during pregnancy exhibit altered responses to visual stimuli, increased trembling and a high-pitched cry, which may indicate problems related to neurological development. These children are likely to have a poor level of memory, problem-solving skills and attentiveness. Moreover, they are likely to suffer from behavioral and learning problems. Considering the role of genetics in substance abuse, prenatal exposure to marijuana is also associated with the development of an increased predisposition to the drug as a young adult.
  • Methamphetamine: Known for its highly powerful effects, meth use during pregnancy can lead to a number of issues for both the mother and the unborn child. These include DNA damage, intrauterine growth retardation, premature birth, fetal stroke, low IQ, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, significant behavioral issues, increased aggression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), type 2 diabetes, etc.

Seek treatment to abstain from drugs during pregnancy

Pregnancy is a critical phase in any woman’s life. During this period, she has to endure a number of challenges biologically, psychologically and socially. A slight imbalance in her behaviors or habits can put both the mother and the child at risk of developing serious health problems. Therefore, it is advisable to abstain from toxic substances during pregnancy.

If you or your loved one is struggling with substance abuse, connect to the Colorado Drug Addiction Helpline to contact the best addiction treatment centers in Colorado specializing in the evidence-based intervention plans. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-218-7546 or chat online for further information on addiction treatment in Colorado.


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