When a woman is expecting a baby she will usually go to great lengths to take care of herself to help ensure the baby will be healthy, and that the pregnancy will go as smoothly as possible. In some cases, however, the mother-to-be may not take seriously the warnings about exposing a fetus to drugs or alcohol during pregnancy. They may ignore these warnings as being over-the-top, and go ahead and continue to imbibe now and then, or regularly, throughout the pregnancy.
The reality is that the advise to avoid not only alcohol and drugs, but even caffeine and many over-the-counter medications is based in solid science. Even occasional exposure to these substances can impact the health of the baby. In fact, birth defects from alcohol and drugs are more common than one might think.
The key to avoiding potential birth defects from alcohol and drugs is to exercise sound judgment during pregnancy by practicing preventative measures. When it comes to the health of an unborn baby, it is always best to err on the side of caution. Save that champagne toast for celebrating the baby’s safe arrival.
The Truth About Birth Defects From Alcohol and Drugs
While it is impossible for an expectant mother to control every possible outcome regarding her baby’s healthy development, avoiding drugs and alcohol during the pregnancy does substantially decrease the odds of the baby being born with a defect. Of course, genetics are the number one cause of birth defects, but there is good reason to not add any other risks to those that cannot be controlled. According to the statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control, one in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect. Causes include exposure to drugs or alcohol, exposure to toxins or chemical hazards, nutritional deficiencies such as folic acid, and genetic factors.
Regarding exposure to drugs and alcohol during pregnancy and the potential for birth defects, it is eye-opening to learn of just how sensitive the fetus is to these substances. Once armed with this important information, it follows that most women would not put their child’s health and future at any undue risk, thereby avoiding drugs and alcohol when expecting a baby.
The Effects of Alcohol on a Baby
When the fetus is exposed to alcohol they may develop a physical, behavioral, or future learning disability. The spectrum of alcohol-related disorders is call fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Of these disorders caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most severe. FAS is typically caused by heavy alcohol consumption by the mother and can result in the following defects:
- Facial deformities, such as small eye openings, a thin upper lip, and a smooth philtrum, which is the groove between the upper lip and nose.
- Small head size, low birth weight, failure to thrive
- Vision problems
- Heart, bone, and kidney problems
- Neurological problems, including poor balance and seizures
- Behavioral problems later, such as hyperactivity, poor concentration, impulsivity, stubbornness, and anxiety
There is no cure for FAS, however there are some speech and language therapies, physical therapies, and other early intervention actions that can help the child.
The Effects of Drugs on a Baby
Just as alcohol can cross right over into the fetus, the same is true of exposure to drugs in utero. The baby will actually feel the effects of whatever drug the mother is using, including such drugs as methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and opioids. Not only can the baby feel the immediate effects of the drug, but it may have lifelong effects. Some of the negative health effects caused by using drugs during pregnancy include:
- Premature babies, low birth weight, miscarriage, and stillborn births
- Memory and attention problems
- Behavior problems
- Brain damage
- Heart defects
- Defects of the urinary tract
- Withdrawal symptoms, such as trembling and excessive crying
- Placental abruption
Any use of drugs, alcohol, or even smoking can result in birth defects or cause behavioral or cognitive challenges for the baby in the future. Every effort should be made to avoid all such substances for the duration of the pregnancy to reduce the risks of birth defects from alcohol and drugs. If the mother is taking a prescribed medication she should tell her physician that she is pregnant so it can be determined if the medication is safe to the fetus.
The Treatment Specialist Offers Preventative Advise for Expectant Mothers
The Treatment Specialist can provide solid information about the risks that accompany alcohol and drug use during pregnancy. Understanding the effects of these substances on the baby in utero can arm you with important knowledge to increase the chances of a healthy pregnancy and baby. For more information about the impact of alcohol and drugs on a fetus, or any other topic of concern, please contact The Treatment Specialist today at (866) 644-7911.