Drugs and Pregnancy. There is a lot of harmful effects of drugs during pregnancy. How many pregnant women do not consume strong drugs that are low in strength or in quantity? How many babies do not suffer the consequences of drug use from their surrogate mother? How many lives do not deserve to be preserved against the use of drugs?

Considering the potential complications of drug use during pregnancy, whether for the mother, the fetus or the baby once born, it is clear to strongly discourage the use of illicit substances during this period. However, as the addiction remains very complicated to manage, outside medical assistance must be sought.

Expectant mothers who consume soft or harder drugs are usually women in great social distress. Sometimes these pregnancies are not even desired. And very often, it is difficult for them to talk about it and admit their addictions to medical staff. It is imperative that they find structures to help themselves to achieve this by limiting the adverse effects of drugs during pregnancy on their health and that of their unborn child.

Substance use can have serious repercussions in the early stages of fetal development, as well as long-term adverse effects in early childhood and much later.

All drugs abused can have negative consequences on the progress of pregnancy and fetal development. Any substance can cross the placental barrier and affect the fetus.

Depending on the type of drug and the quantity consumed, it is also possible that the baby suffers from weaning at birth, that is to say from deprivation (inconsolable crying, irritability, tremors, feeding difficulties, etc.).

Some drugs may also have longer-term effects on children (learning disabilities, behavioral problems, hyperactivity, etc.).

The use of illicit drugs during pregnancy can lead to medical complications such as early miscarriage, placental detachment, fetal growth retardation, clot formation, hypertension, intrauterine death, premature labor and the haemorrhage of deliverance. In utero exposure may make the fetus dependent on blood-borne drugs.

*** The Effects of Drugs During Pregnancy Will Last a Lifetime

Among these, the most common are:

– spontaneous abortion;

– premature delivery;

– growth retardation in the fetus.

What Are the Effects of Drugs During Pregnancy?The Effects of Drugs During Pregnancy

Prescription and over-the-counter medications can cross the placenta and reach the baby’s bloodstream.

Because the unborn child is going through crucial stages of his development, the drugs or products may affect him in a different way than the mother, sometimes causing congenital deficiencies or other significant problems.

Before you start taking any type of prescription or over-the-counter medications, it’s very important to talk to a health care professional all the way through pregnancy, especially during the first three months, when the most important systems of the baby’s body form.

*** Neonatal Withdrawal Syndrome

Neonatal withdrawal syndrome or drug dependence syndrome is a disorder affecting babies born to mothers who have consumed substances during pregnancy. The pregnant baby eventually gets used to the drugs he receives while he is in the womb. After birth, the baby becomes dependent on the drug to which he no longer has access, showing withdrawal symptoms.

Babies with neonatal withdrawal syndrome may seem quite normal at birth. Typically, withdrawal symptoms occur within 24 to 48 hours of life, but sometimes they do not appear until ten days after birth. Most of the time, the symptoms are mild and fade after a week, but they can last up to three weeks.

The following drugs are frequently associated with neonatal withdrawal syndrome:

Codeine, Fentanyl, Heroin, and Methadone, Meperidine (Demerol), Morphine, Pentazocine, Propoxyphene, Barbiturates, Caffeine, Chlordiazepoxide, Cocaine, Amphetamines, Diazepam, and Lorazepam, Diphenylamine, Ethyl Alcohol, Marijuana, Nicotine, Phencyclidine, Specific Inhibitors of Serotonin Reuptake (Fluoxetine, Paroxetine, Sertraline, Citalopram). 

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Drugs During Pregnancy and Lactation : Treatment Options and Risk Assessment

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1 – Tobacco During Pregnancy

Tobacco use during pregnancy is associated with the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight – more susceptible to infection – and a high risk of death in the cradle.

The child’s risk of acquiring ear infections and breathing disorders also increases with the exposure of the fetus to tobacco. There is a possible link between tobacco use and potential attention deficit disorders, as well as developmental delays.

2 – LSD and Amphetamines During Pregnancy

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamine) and amphetamines are other drugs whose effects during pregnancy are not clearly known.

However, congenital anomalies have been seen in the babies of women taking LSD and other drugs. It is impossible to establish a definite link between these abnormalities and the consumption of these drugs. Most women who take LSD or amphetamines also consume alcohol, other drugs or smoke.

Studies differ as to the effects observed. We can still say that the consumption of more than one soft drug seems to increase the risk of congenital anomalies.

In general, without certainty about the exact effect of these drugs during pregnancy on babies to be born, it is better to avoid them.

3 – Cocaine During Pregnancy

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant of the central nervous system. Consuming it during pregnancy can cause serious problems. In early pregnancy, it can increase the risk of miscarriage. Consumed later in pregnancy, it may trigger labor prematurely. Studies show that women who use cocaine during pregnancy are twice as likely as other women to have a premature baby.

Cocaine use can also cause placental detachment of the uterine wall before labor begins. This condition (abruptio placentae) can cause heavy bleeding and be fatal to the mother and baby. The decrease in oxygen supply caused by this detachment of the placenta exposes the fetus to death in utero.

The cocaine crosses the placenta and circulates in the baby’s blood. It can cause irreversible brain damage or even the death of an unborn baby. These issues are more prevalent among the babies of women who have continued to use cocaine throughout their pregnancy.

Congenital anomalies associated with cocaine use by the mother include malformations: brain, skull, face, eyes, heart, limbs, intestines, genitals, urinary tract.

*** Risks for the Newborn

The drug can decrease the nutrient and oxygen supply of the developing baby. It may be much smaller at birth, even if it is born eventually. The risk of death for low birth weight babies in their first month is higher than that for babies of normal birth weight. Women who stop taking cocaine in early pregnancy are less likely to have a premature baby or low birth weight.

A child whose mother has been using cocaine may have disabilities such as cerebral palsy, visual or hearing impairment. These are babies who often suffer from various disorders: they have trouble sleeping or feeding. And they may be subject to a state comparable to cravings. We often find that they are endowed with a particular character: nervous, irritable, inconsolable, they often start crying at the slightest noise or contact.

Cocaine passes into breast milk in large amounts. It’s on the baby continue to be harmful.

4 – The Heroine During Pregnancy

Numerous scientific studies have shown the potential dangers of heroin used by pregnant women. Pregnant women taking heroin are strongly advised to switch to methadone. The latter is administered at regular intervals. It helps to stabilize the drug level in the blood, thus limiting the problems for the mother and the baby.

With the help of professionals, a woman should be able to decrease the amount of heroin she takes. Dependent women are not advised to stop heroin once pregnant. This could cause suffering and craving for the developing baby, which could be very dangerous.

*** The Fetus Exposed to Heroin May See Its Growth Limited.

Heroin has many adverse effects on a developing baby. It can limit growth, lead to premature labor and stillbirths. About half of babies born to heroin-dependent mothers are premature babies.

A baby whose mother has been using heroin is likely to experience a number of problems. At the respiratory level, he may have difficulty breathing or feeding. This can be dangerous during the first months because it inevitably causes development problems. In addition, these babies are often subject to great agitation and irritability. Finally, as for cocaine, heroin passes into breast milk, breastfeeding must also be excluded.

Babies exposed to heroin or methadone before birth suffers from severe withdrawal symptoms once they are born. They require a treatment that can last several weeks.

5 – Marijuana During Pregnancy

Several scientific studies show that regular use of cannabis exposes the mother and the child to several risks because the active principle contained in this substance crosses the wall of the placenta to reach the blood of the fetus.

*** Risks to the Fetus.

Regular use of cannabis can cause intrauterine growth retardation. The fetus is thus exposed, like the mother, to carbon monoxide. In addition, the active ingredient contained in cannabis passes the wall of the placenta to end up in the blood of the fetus at varying doses. This can cause a retro-placental hematoma. The latter is characterized by a detachment of the placenta, which causes a decrease in the oxygen supply of the fetus, which can lead to his death in utero. This hematoma is often the cause of hemorrhages for the mother, which are sometimes fatal.

*** Risks for the Newborn.

Mothers who use cannabis give birth to babies with lower weights than others. This weakness leads to greater susceptibility to infections during the first months. On the other hand, cases of premature babies are much more common with this drug.

6 – Cannabis and Pregnancy: The Brain of the Fetus in Danger

A study conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institute (Sweden), whose results appeared in the EMBO Journal in January 2014, shows that cannabis causes a delay in brain development.

They tried to evaluate the effects of such consumption on the fetus by studying mice and human tissues. Their goal was to determine how THC in cannabis affects the unborn baby’s brain, including its development. They discovered that THC acts on a protein that helps cells grow.

When the expectant mother consumes cannabis while the fetal brain is in the developing phase, the cerebral cortex of the fetus suffers from a defective development. This region of the brain organizes cognitive function and memory formation. In the baby, this results in particular in a deficit of connections between the neurons.

In the short term, this may not have immediate effects on cognition. But this delay in development can be observed in the long term, even if the THC alone can cause slight changes, its effect may be enough to sensitize the brain to stressors or diseases, and cause in the future neuropsychiatric pathologies (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, etc.).

7 – Alcohol Consumption During Pregnancy

Pregnant women who consume alcohol may give birth to a child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the only birth defect linked to the consumption of psychotropic drugs that can be diagnosed according to specific criteria. There are three of these disorders: growth disorders, characteristic facial features and deterioration of the central nervous system, whose severity can range from mild to severe, and which can lead to problems such as impairment of intellectual ability, learning disabilities, memory problems, as well as difficulty in distinguishing the cause of the effect.

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