Drug Use and Child Development A pregnant woman's drug use can adversely affect the development of her fetus and cause problems after birth. The addictive drugs a mother uses during the prenatal period are extremely dangerous for a baby and can cause serious and long-term developmental delays.
Drug Use Consequences for Child Development Multiple addictive substances are toxic to a fetus if their use continues during pregnancy, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Important facts to consider include: Adverse effects of a drug on the development of the fetal brain and other organ systems can continue after birth and cause delays in childhood and persistent physical, mental, social, behavioral, and intellectual development. The drugs can also interfere with the health of the mother and her pregnancy, including an increased risk for miscarriages, pre-term births, and stillbirths. In addition, a mother's continued substance addiction after pregnancy can also adversely affect the physical and psychological well-being, safety, and life of her child, according to a Harvard study.
Nicotine Use Cigarette smoking is the most abused substance during pregnancy. According to the CDC, smoking tobacco during pregnancy and second hand smoke increases the risk for problems that can have long-term adverse developmental consequences: Premature rupture of membranes, Preterm birth, Low birth weight, Birth defects including cleft lip and palate Fetal exposure to nicotine and other toxins in tobacco also increases the risk for physical and cognitive developmental delays in childhood, and later years.
Alcohol Use Alcohol is the second most common abused substance during pregnancy. Alcohol can cause adverse effects on fetal development that will leave a child with life long disabilities and incapable of a normal life. The severity of the adverse effects is worse if a mother drinks during the first trimester and depends how much and how frequently she drinks. However, even small amounts of alcohol can affect a fetus at any point throughout pregnancy. According to the March of Dimes, alcohol can increase the risk for, Low birth weight Mental retardation because of the effects on the fetal brain The severest form of FASD is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which includes: Abnormal facial features, Small head size, Slow growth of the fetus and child, Behavioral problems and deficits in motor, intellectual, learning, and social skills after birth and through life.
Marijuana Use Marijuana abuse is the third most common drug problem during pregnancy. Toxins in marijuana decrease oxygen supply to the fetus, which affects his growth and organ development. In addition, your joint might be laced with other unknown toxic substances, such as pesticides and microorganisms which can harm your baby. Even a small amount of weed can affect fetal development. Babies affected in the womb by cannabis abuse are at greater risk for the following: Stunted fetal growth leading to low weight at birth, Poor growth of the fetal brain, Shorter body measurements and smaller heads, Breathing problems and asthma after birth, Restlessness and anxiety, Long-term learning difficulties and behavioral problems
Cocaine Addiction Cocaine is the fourth most common drug abused in pregnancy. Exposure of the fetus to cocaine increases the risk for: Preterm labor and birth before 37 weeks, Low birth weight, Withdrawal symptoms at birth including tremors and problems with feeding and abnormal child development, Symptoms of attention deficit disorder and other behavioral problems, Problems with childhood physical and cognitive and language development and learning, There is a link between the drug and defects in the brain, head and face, the heart and lungs, and the reproductive and urinary tracts. These problems are likely to cause lifelong physical and learning deficits.
Methamphetamine Use Like cocaine, methamphetamine ("meth") is a stimulant. It can decrease oxygen supply to the fetus and therefore affect the brain. The following are reported fetal and childhood effects: Miscarriages, preterm birth, and low birth weight, Impaired fetal brain development leading to long-term developmental delays and behavioral and learning disabilities in children, Withdrawal symptoms at birth including irritability and sensitivity to light and touch, and difficulty with suckling from breast or bottle can also cause problems with weight gain and physical and cognitive development for life.
Opioid Addiction Illicit street opioids (narcotics) such as heroin and prescription opioids, such as Vicodin and Oxycontin, easily cross the placenta to the fetus. These potent drugs can impair development of the fetal brain and other organs. They have a long-term impact on a child's behavior, speech, language, learning, and psychosocial skills. Other effects on the fetus that can cause developmental delays include: Preterm labor and preterm birth Low birth weight, Problems with the function of the placenta which causes decreased oxygen and nutrient supply, Birth defects including of the heart and spine and a risk for cleft palate, clubfoot and other limb abnormalities
Opioid dependence or addiction in the fetus: After birth, a newborn can develop neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) once he withdraws from his mother's source of opioids. Irritability and difficulty sleeping and feeding can cause long-lasting problems with weight gain and development of the newborn
Use of Hallucinogens These drugs include LSD and PCP. During a hallucinogenic trip a woman might inadvertently do something to hurt her fetus. Abuse of the drugs during pregnancy can cause: Low birth weight, Brain damage, Poor muscle control and motor skills, Developmental delays and learning problems