Mothers want the best for their children. That is why they change their lifestyles, eat a healthier diet, read many pregnancy and parenting books, and make tons of preparation when they are expecting.
Pregnant women endure the drastic changes that happen to their bodies, the volatile mood swings, the uncontrollable cravings, and the hormones wreaking havoc on their physical and mental state.
They visit the clinic for regular scheduled prenatal monitoring and ultrasound scans and other medical examinations. They do many significant things to ensure that the fetus is healthy and developing well.
But over the years, there has been an increasing trend of women using drugs and alcohol and smoke while pregnant. During pregnancy, everything that the expectant mother takes into her body almost always reaches the baby in her womb.
Whether it’s nutrient-rich food and supplements or harmful substances like nicotine, alcohol, and drugs, anything that enters the pregnant woman’s bodies can profoundly affect the fetus.
Being exposed to these harmful substances can have adverse, sometimes fatal, effects on the fetus, as well as the pregnant mother.
Illegal substances and pregnancy
Illicit drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamine, are known to have serious side effects on the body, including permanent organ damage, high blood pressure, destruction of tissues, psychosis, and addiction.
For a developing fetus, exposure to drugs can result in major physical and mental disabilities that may cripple them for the rest of their life or kill them early on.
Cocaine, also known as coke, coca, or flake, can cause immediate and lifetime damage to the fetus. Babies who have been exposed to this drug in the womb are likely to grow up with physical defects and mental deficiencies.
Cocaine-exposed babies have a high risk of developing permanent congenital disabilities that usually affect the urinary tract and heart, as well as of being born with smaller heads, which can indicate lower IQ.
Exposure to cocaine can also trigger a stroke, which may end in permanent brain damage or death of the fetus.
To the pregnant woman, cocaine use increases her risk of miscarrying early in the pregnancy and preterm labor and difficult delivery in the later stage. When the infant is born, they may also have low birth weight and be excessively irritable and hard to feed.
Smoking marijuana or ingesting it in any form is not any better.
Marijuana (also called weed, pot, dope, herb, or hash) is known for its psychoactive effect on the user. It induces a state of euphoria, in which the user feels intense pleasure and the absence of pain, but it also causes sudden mood changes, from happiness to anxiety, relaxation to paranoia.
For unborn babies, exposure to marijuana during their time in their mother’s womb can result in developmental delays in their infancy and the later stages of their life.
There are pieces of evidence that show that prenatal marijuana exposure can result in developmental and hyperactive disorders in children.
Infants who are born from women who use cannabis during pregnancy have been found to have “altered responses to visual stimuli, increase trembling, and a high-pitched cry, which could indicate problems with neurological development,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (or NIDA’s) Substance Use in Women Research Report.
Marijuana-exposed babies are also likely to develop withdrawal symptoms and a higher likelihood of marijuana usage when they grow up.
Pregnant women are also 2.3 times more likely to have still birth. There are no human studies that link marijuana to miscarriage, but studies on pregnant animals have found an increased risk of miscarriage with marijuana use early in the pregnancy.
Smoking and pregnancy
Cigarette smoking can kill people and cause cancer.
A fetus in the womb is not exempted from the harmful effects of their mother’s smoking. Because the mother and the unborn child are connected through the placenta and umbilical cord, the fetus also absorbs the nicotine and carcinogenic chemicals coming from the cigarette the mother is smoking.
If this occurs early in the pregnancy, the fetus has a higher risk of developing many different heart defects, including septal defects, which is essentially a hole between the heart’s left and right chambers.
Majority of the babies who are born with congenital heart disease don’t survive through their first year of life. Those who live will be subjected to a lifetime of medical monitoring and treatment, medication, and surgeries.
Pregnant women who smoke may also experience a higher risk of placenta problems, which can impede the delivery of nutrients to the fetus, resulting in low birth weight, preterm labor, and the baby developing cleft palate.
Smoking during pregnancy is also linked to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), as well as the permanent damage on the fetus’s brain and lung, and babies having colic.
Alcohol and pregnancy
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are problems that occur in babies who have been exposed to alcohol during their time in the womb.
Babies with FAS will develop abnormal facial features, growth deficiencies, and problems in the central nervous system.
They are also at risk of developing learning disabilities
Including ones that affect their attention span and hyperactive disorders, speech and language delays, intellectual disability, vision and hearing issues, and heart, kidney, and bone problems.
Despite what other experts may claim, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) firmly states that there is no “safe amount of alcohol to drink” and “safe time to drink alcohol” during pregnancy.
Alcohol, cigarette smoke, and drugs, which have proven adverse effects on fully developed humans, are even more detrimental to a developing fetus. The pregnant mother is linked to her fetus through the placenta and the umbilical cord.
If she smokes, drinks alcohol, takes drugs, or does all three, her baby in the womb also receives what she’s taking in—nicotine, psychoactive substances, and alcohol. While the pregnant woman may experience some minor and major adverse effects, her baby is almost always guaranteed to suffer serious consequences that will burden them for a lifetime.
Many resources and people parading as medical experts have claimed recently that small or carefully curated intake of certain substances, like alcohol, won’t have lasting adverse effects on the expecting mother and the unborn baby.
Currently, there isn’t enough research to back this claim. As a safety precaution, credible and experienced medical professionals recommend avoiding any type of drugs (whether legal or illegal), alcohol, and tobacco during pregnancy.