4 Serious Effects of Substance Abuse During Pregnancy

substance abuse

Substance abuse in general is a harmful habit to have. For generations, drugs and alcohol have ruined masses of lives, causing the people abusing them to fall severely and sometimes even irreversibly sick and find it difficult to have regular interactions with people and form healthy connections to rely on. In the case of pregnant women, the danger is not only to the abuser, but to her unborn child as well, and the effects can manifest after the baby is born and last until well into its adult life.

This is because a portion of everything a mother consumes during the gestation period goes into the nutrition of the baby, and that can include healthy items like fruit, vegetable and normal food, as well as unhealthy things like drugs. Here are four ways in which substance abuse during pregnancy can affect a newborn baby.

1. Death

Many drug-using mothers give birth to what doctors refer to as ‘drug babies’, and these babies can be born with life threatening birth defects like congenital heart problems, respiratory failures and others, which more often than not, lead to an early death. Since babies are too weak to deal with drug withdrawal symptoms, chances of survival are extremely low, and most babies end up dying within a few weeks of birth. Those that miraculously do survive end up spending their lives in extreme sickness and in the hospital for a major part of their lives. The best solution is for the mother to seek substance abuse treatment so that both she and her baby can be healthy and lead better lives.

2. Premature birth

Mothers who abuse substances during pregnancy run a much higher risk of giving birth to a baby born prematurely, than a healthy mother. Premature birth of a baby can lead to several issues, including low birth weight, weak immune system, dangerously low body temperature that needs constant regulation and many more. In most cases, their respiratory system is also too weak to function, causing them to require life support. If they manage to survive past the first few months, premature babies also run the risk of suffering from long term difficulties such as general poor health and growth, mental retardation, physical disability and behavioral problems.

3. Birth defects

In several cases where drug addict mothers gave birth to babies, physical malformations are among the most common effects seen in the newborns. Many children are born with heads that are disproportionately large or small for their tiny bodies. Some are even prone to being born with abnormal facial features, and their low body weight means that they have no means of keeping warm, causing them to require being put in a temperature-controlled environment. Malformations could also happen with important organs like the heart and kidney, and there could also be serious deformations in the bone structure of the baby.

4. Behavior and emotional well-being

In addition to all the physical defects mentioned above, babies born to mothers abusing substances also run the risk of suffering from several mental, emotional and behavioral issues. It has been long known that the babies that were exposed to drugs in the prenatal stages are likely to be born with cognitive and behavioral disorders, and may have trouble learning to speak and socialize adequately. In the long term, babies might have a low IQ, may suffer from serious memory and attention problems and may also display poor judgement and reasoning skills. Such children often find it difficult to behave normally in public and perform ideally in school.

Several cases now show that certain babies are born addicted to drugs right from the time they’re born – and that’s a thought that is extremely frightening to comprehend. Steps must be taken to ensure that drug usage in pregnant mothers is reduced drastically. Statistics have shown that sixty five percent of pregnant women use illicit drugs during pregnancy, which causes serious harm to both herself as well as the baby in the womb. Increasing awareness of the issues surrounding substance abuse during pregnancy, the ill effects and the right ways to handle such situations will out physician in a better position to take care of such cases when they are brought to their attention.

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