Illicit Drug Use in Pregnancy
August 1st, 2010
Illicit Drug Use in Pregnancy
Studies in 2008 have shown that the amount of babies born to drug addicted mothers has almost doubled since 2003. Pregnant mothers have been using drugs during pregnancy for thousands of years without knowing the effects they can have on their unborn baby. Even though some people claim that illicit drugs used by pregnant mothers cause no harm to the fetus, there have been studies that show otherwise. Cocaine has many street names such as crack, blow, snow, and coke. Cocaine is a highly addictive central nervous system stimulant. Cocaine can be injected, smoked, or snorted. It increases the user’s blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. The risks associated with this drug are respiratory failure, seizures, stroke, nausea, heart attacks, and abdominal pain. Sudden death may occur to first time users. When a pregnant woman uses cocaine it crosses through the placenta and circulates through the fetus’ body. Fetuses eliminate cocaine from their bodies more slowly than adults do. If a mother uses cocaine in the early months of pregnancy it can increase her risks of a miscarriage. When used later in pregnancy, cocaine use can lead to tremors, muscle spasms, feeding difficulties, sleeplessness, and placental abruption. Other adverse effects on the fetus such as shorter length, smaller head circumference, higher rates of congenital malformations, intestinal abnormalities, and neurobehavioral malfunction can be contributed to cocaine use during pregnancy. In certain rare circumstances perinatal cerebral infraction associated with cocaine use has also been known to happen. Cocaine decreases uterine blood flow and increases maternal blood pressure. When placental abruption occurs it can lead to preterm birth, severe bleeding, and even fetal death. The risks of birth defects increase if the mother has used cocaine frequently during pregnancy. Also the more frequent the use of cocaine, the more likely it is that the fetus could have a stroke inside of the mother that can result in brain damage and possibly death. As these children grow older they may have uncontrollable trembling, learning disabilities and may suffer from hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder. However, a study done in 2004 suggests that four-year-olds exposed to cocaine during pregnancy have the same intelligence level as those that were not exposed to cocaine. Studies also suggest that the mother’s poor health during pregnancy may have played a role in the fetus’ health. Heroin is also known as “H,” “smack,” and “junk” is a very addictive drug. It is processed from morphine. Heroin is injected, snorted, or smoked. Heroin can depress breathing and sudden death can occur. Many users enter states of wakefulness and sleepiness. Users also risk the potential of getting HIV by sharing needles used to inject the drug. Most of the time heroin appears as a brown or white powder or as a sticky black substance. It crosses through the placenta into the baby. Heroin is so addictive it can make the baby dependent on it also and they can be born addicted. Heroin can cause several pregnancy related problems in both the mother and the baby. Some of these risks are pre-mature rupture of the membranes, stillbirth, pre-mature birth, and poor fetal growth. If a dependent mother decides to stop taking it suddenly, her fetus can die. This is what a premature baby looks like. The baby is very small and frail. These babies can spend weeks or even months in the hospital. Many premature babies end up with long-term developmental disabilities. (BabyElan, 2010).
Heroin use during pregnancy can cause many side effects to a newborn baby. Within three days after birth babies show symptoms of trembling, irritability, fever, vomiting, and seizures. Withdrawal symptoms include diarrhea, fever, convulsions, and joint stiffness. The baby has a higher risk of getting SIDS (Sudden Infant...
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American Pregnancy Association
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