Pregnancy and Drug Abuse

Your pregnancy is a very sensitive and emotional time in your life. You must avoid using drugs during pregnancy if you want to have a healthy baby.

Drug use during pregnancy is a concern because of the potential teratogenic effects of the drugs and the physiological changes that occur in response to pregnancy. Teratogens are drugs that can cause abnormal fetal development in pregnant women. It is regrettable that many women in the U.S. are using illegal drugs, such as cocaine, during pregnancy.

Here are some facts from Haven House Recovery about drug abuse that you should know.

Illegal drugs can lead to addiction in a mother and her child.

It's wrong to believe that only mothers are affected by drug addiction and dependence. Stanford Children's Health published an article that revealed illicit substances could also cause addiction in the fetus.

The following are some ways that drug use during pregnancy may affect the fetus:

  • It can lead to birth defects, abnormal development, or even death.
  • It can cause a decrease in blood flow to the placenta which will reduce the supply of oxygen and nutrients from the mother.
  • It can affect the function of the placenta, in particular causing blood vessel constrictions, which reduce the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. The baby will eventually become underweight or less developed.
  • It can cause injury to the fetus indirectly through a decreased blood supply. In extreme cases, preterm labor and delivery may be possible.
  • It can lower the mother's blood pressure and reduce blood flow to the placenta and thus reduce the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus.

Drug transfer occurs at the placenta.

Because it serves as a functional unit between maternal and fetal blood, the placenta plays a vital role in the development and growth of the fetus. The placenta allows for nutrition, excretion, and respiration. It also plays an important role in metabolism and endocrine functions, which ensure strong maternal and fetal well-being.

Drugs that are abused when a woman is pregnant have pharmacological effects on the fetus because they diffuse from the mother's blood circulation to the fetal circulation.

Only somewhat lipid-soluble medicines and free, unbound medications can permeate through the placenta. Drugs that don't pass the placenta are still harmful to the developing fetus because they can impact the uterus or the placenta itself.

Transplacental drug transfers increase during the third trimester. The maternal and placental blood flow increases during this time. The placenta's surface area increases as it gets thinner.

Pregnant women can still use many types of drugs.

The effects of drug abuse on pregnancy and on the newborn depend on the substance. The most dangerous drugs for the fetus are methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana. The cognitive and behavioral problems caused by marijuana use during pregnancy may be linked to fetal brain damage. Cocaine has many adverse effects on the fetus, including miscarriage and premature detachment.

Common over-the-counter medicines such as opioid pain relievers, caffeine, and alcohol can affect the fetus. According to a study by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, nicotine is the most commonly used substance in pregnancy, followed closely by marijuana, cocaine, and alcohol.

A report has also been made indicating a five-fold increase in opiate usage in pregnancy between 2000-2009, which coincides with prescription misuse of opiates.

Clinical trials are not without their challenges and limitations.

Drug misuse during pregnancy has been an issue since most professionals only have a limited strategy for managing it. Additionally, medical trials have traditionally excluded pregnant women, and outcomes from investigations on animals are not necessarily applicable to human subjects. For instance, although human studies have not confirmed the effects of the FDA's categorization system, the FDA's studies were primarily based on animal research.

What drugs have the worst effect on a fetus?

Taking any drug during pregnancy affects the fetus. Babies exposed to cocaine tend to have smaller heads, which can indicate lower intelligence and are at greater risk for other birth defects affecting the heart or urinary tract. It also causes stroke in unborn babies.

Metamphetamine or cocaine increases the risk of miscarriage.These illicit drugs can cause preterm labor, low birth weight, babies with feeding problems, and irritability later in the pregnancy.

Smoking marijuana increases the risk of having a premature baby, low birth weight, and developmental delays. Babies exposed to marijuana during pregnancy seem to experience withdrawal symptoms, including excessive crying and shaking.

Key Takeaway

Some prescription and over-the-counter medications can be considered safe during pregnancy. However, the majority of drugs are not. Sometimes, drugs are necessary for the health and well-being of both the mother and her baby. Talking to her doctor about the benefits and risks of using the drug is important in these cases. A pregnant woman should consult her doctor before taking any over-the-counter or dietary supplement, including medicinal herbs. A doctor may recommend that pregnant women take certain vitamins or minerals.

Many drug rehabilitation centers can help you learn more about the harmful effects of substance abuse on individuals, their families, and the available treatments and therapies. Make sure to reach out to these facilities to get all the help you and your loved ones need.

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