Monday, January 21, 2013

Alcohol & Substance Abuse In Women That Are Pregnant

It has long been held that routine alcohol consumption and drug use during pregnancy creates excessive risks to fetal development and ongoing problems after the baby is born. The Surgeon General first warned expectant mothers about the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy in 1981 and has updated that warning over the years to include risks from other substances that could jeopardize the child's development.


Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy can lead to a condition known as fetal alcohol syndrome that is linked to low and even dangerous birth weight in children. Exposure to drugs including illicit drugs, alcohol, nicotine and even prescription medications can lead to a host of risks including:

- Low birth weight

- Poor brain development

- Limited physical development

- Higher incidence of birth defects

Current Trends

A recent report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) showed both positive and negative trends in America on this issue. SAMHSA reported that most women are abiding by warnings about substance use during pregnancy, but alcohol use among pregnant women is still disturbingly high. The national survey noted that about 1 in 8 women reported drinking any amount during pregnancy.

Risks by Substance

A short summary of some of the risks by substance grows, not surprisingly, more dangerous as the substances get more addictive and dangerous.

- Alcohol: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Effects, Alcohol Related Birth Defects, all of which produce varying degrees of abnormal physical development, learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

- Marijuana: High risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, low birth-weight and fetal abnormalities.

- Nicotine and Tobacco: Causes low birth weight, risks premature birth, risk of stillbirth and miscarriage and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

- Cocaine: All of the complications listed above plus prenatal strokes, kidney and breathing disorders, abruptio placentae and babies may be born addicted.

- Heroin and other narcotics: All of the above, plus infants may be born suffering from withdrawal and all it's effects. Mothers exposed to HIV can pass it onto their children at birth.

- Methamphetamine, PCP, Inhalants, Steroids, OTC: Risk of serious physical birth defects and abnormalities such as missing or undeveloped limbs and organs.

Prescription Medications

Even though they are prescribed by your doctor, prescription medications carry birth and developmental risks as well. It is best to discuss all risks with your doctor before starting any medications.

Lowering Risk

The best way to keeping any risks to your unborn child low is to abstain from any and all alcohol and drug substances during your pregnancy.

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