why should a pregnant woman avoid alcohol and drugs

You and your baby are connected by the placenta and umbilical cord. Nearly everything that enters your body will be shared with your baby. This means that any drug you use will also affect your baby. A fetus is very sensitive to drugs and canвt eliminate drugs as effectively as you can. Consequently, the chemicals can build up to extremely high levels in the baby s system and cause permanent damage. The risks associated with drug use during pregnancy depend on various factors, including:
In general, however, using drugs during pregnancy can result in the following: Low birth weight places an infant at a higher risk for illness, intellectual disability, and even death. Premature birth increases the risk of lung, eye, and learning problems in the infant. Birth defects that often occur due to drug use include seizure, stroke, and intellectual and learning disabilities. Fetuses can become dependent on the drug(s) the mother is using and may experience withdrawal symptoms after delivery. Drug use during early pregnancy can affect the developing organs and limbs of the fetus. Even one episode of drug use during this period can affect the development of your child. In most cases, it results in a birth defect or miscarriage. Drug use later in pregnancy can affect the development of your baby s central nervous system. After pregnancy, many drugs can pass through breast milk and harm the baby. Using any type of illegal drug during pregnancy can have a detrimental effect on your child. Here is some information on the most commonly used drugs and how they can affect a developing baby. To get the full effect of marijuana, smokers need to inhale deeply and hold the smoke in their lungs for as long as possible. There are many harmful gases in marijuana smoke that can be passed along to your baby, increasing the risk for complications. Smoking marijuana during pregnancy may increase the chances that your baby will have a bowel movement while inside the womb, which can cause early onset of labor and fetal distress.


Marijuana use can also result in poor growth, behavioral problems, and breathing problems. Marijuana use should also be avoided while breast-feeding, as the drug can easily be transmitted to the baby through breast milk. Cocaine use during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. It can also cause premature rupture of membranes (water breaks early), early separation of the placenta, and preterm labor. A baby exposed to cocaine is at a higher risk for: After pregnancy, cocaine can be transmitted to the baby through breast milk, so it shouldnвt be used while breast-feeding. Opiates, also known as narcotics, include heroin and methadone. Women who use narcotics during pregnancy are at increased risk for preterm labor and delivery. They are also more likely to deliver a stillborn baby or a baby with growth problems. Babies exposed to narcotics in utero are at increased risk for neonatal death. If you use heroin during pregnancy, your baby may be born addicted to the drug. They may experience a severe, life-threatening withdrawal syndrome after delivery. This condition is characterized by the following symptoms: Your baby will need special care and medication to treat their withdrawals. If you share needles, you should be tested for HIV and hepatitis. These infections can also cause complications in your baby. Like cocaine and marijuana, heroin shouldnвt be used while breast-feeding. If you can quit using opiates altogether, it will be best for you and your baby. However, switching to methadone is better than continued heroin use. Methadone is associated with better pregnancy outcomes than heroin, but babies can still experience the narcotic withdrawal syndrome. Additionally, they may still be at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome. For these reasons, itвs best to avoid using methadone during pregnancy. Methadone use of 20 milligrams or less per day is compatible with breast-feeding.


If you use stimulants, such as crystal methamphetamine (speed), then you are at increased risk for the following problems: Amphetamines shouldnвt be used if youвre breast-feeding. If you need assistance or support at any time, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrationвs National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP or 1-800-662-AYUDA (in Spanish). There are people available to help you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Using drugs (both legal and illegal) while you are pregnant puts your baby at BIOLOGICAL risk for future behavioral and developmental problems. If you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, help prevent birth defects by NOT using alcohol, drugs or tobacco. If you or someone you know is pregnant and drinking or using drugs, there is help available. Quitting now increases the baby's chances of being born healthy. Tobacco is the leading cause of low birth weight in babies, increasing the risk of developmental problems. Long-term effects include cognitive and behavioral effects that persist into childhood. If you need help quitting smoking, call the Utah Tobacco Quit Line: 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-877-629-1585 in Spanish) or visit According to the, there is no increased risk for birth defects with ANY antidepressant medications. A few years ago there were reports of heart defects with Paxil. New research on Paxil and pregnancy hasn't shown an increased risk. There can be some discontinuation side-effects for newborns when antidepressants are used during pregnancy. Babies can be sleepy or stimulated (wide-awake) and can have some jitteriness. These side-effects are not serious for the infant and don't last very long. With most antidepressants, very little of the drug gets into the breast milk. Most babies do fine when mom takes an antidepressant while breast feeding. Call at 1-800-222-2229 and your doctor if you have any questions. Do NOT stop taking your medication until you speak with your health care provider.


Alcohol is the only substance that causes congenital defects. Fetal growth is inhibited and children can be born with fetal alcohol syndrome, resulting in growth problems and behavioral problems. Fetal alcohol syndrome is the most preventable birth defect. Alcohol can cause damage in the brain of children and adolescents as well. The brain goes through a lot of changes during adolescence [ages 12-21] and alcohol can seriously damage long-and short-term growth - including negative effects to memory and impulse control mechanisms. Take care of your children by setting clear rules and expectations about NO underage drinking. Underage drinking begins as early as 4th grade. In one study, 1 in 10 fourth graders have had more than a sip of alcohol. If you have other questions about the risks to your baby, contact MotherToBaby: 801-328-2229 or 1-800-822-2229 (Spanish speakers available) or visit No birth defects have been noted in the research, but infants born with opiates in their system require more time in the hospital to help them fet off the drug. Long-term effects on the infant and child are not noted unless raised in a home in which drugs are used regularly. The vast majority of infants who tested positive for cocaine were not premature and they did not experience cocaine withdrawal syndrome. Over time, these children had a normal IQ and only some function problems although low family income levels tended to be the reason why some children performed more poorly than others. Effects are similar to cocaine with one significant difference - methamphetamine kills neurons. A long-term study is being conducted throughout the United States. If you are concerned about your drug and alcohol use during pregnancy, there are people who can help you. It's confidential and easy to access. Call your county substance abuse treatment provider by looking them up under County Services in the White Pages.

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