|Social Drugs and Pregnancy|
The main social and illegal drugs commonly used, which can
cause problems in and after pregnancy are:
- Smoking . Carbon monoxide and nicotine in tobacco both reach
the baby very easily through the .
Both of these can cause problems with the baby's growth and development
before birth. Carbon monoxide and Nicotine reduce the amount of oxygen
available in the mother's blood, which can affect the development and
size of the baby.
Smoking can cause problems in pregnancy such as ,
and . Babies practise breathing movements while in the womb. It
has been shown that cigarette smoking can disrupt these breathing movements.
Research has also shown that babies of smokers are generally below the
that these babies can develop complications such as infections and breathing
problems during the first weeks of life. Some research has indicated
that smoking may increase the risk of .
- Alcohol crosses
the placenta to the baby. It can accumulate in the amniotic fluid surrounding
the baby before the birth and cause problems such as ,
and . There is evidence to suggest that if a woman drinks two or
more standard drinks each day the baby can be affected and grow slowly.
If a woman drinks six or more standard drinks each day the baby may
have slow physical growth, poor coordination and movement and intellectual
disability ( ). The World Health Organisation suggests that there
is really no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and
that no alcohol at all is the safest approach. Babies of women who are
heavily dependent on alcohol can suffer withdrawal after birth. The
symptoms can include tremors, irritability, fits and bloated abdomen.
- Cocaine . Considerable research into the
effects of cocaine use in pregnancy indicates that cocaine may cause
It also indicates that cocaine use may have an effect on the baby's
and even after birth. Cocaine increases the heart rate in both the mother
and baby and the supply of oxygen and blood to the baby is reduced,
which makes it more likely that the baby will be small and grow slowly.
Several cases of bleeding in the brain have been reported in babies
whose mothers were dependent on cocaine. A number of foetal abnormalities
have been reported concerning the use of cocaine during pregnancy. If
cocaine is used close to the birth the baby may be born excessively
active and appear distressed and restless. Withdrawal symptoms can occur
in the babies of mothers who use cocaine regularly. These symptoms appear
similar to those of adults experiencing withdrawal and can include sleepiness
and lack of responsiveness.
- Marijuana . Women who smoke marijuana
often smoke it with tobacco and therefore there will be risks to the
baby from tobacco smoke. THC ( Tetrahydrocannabinol )
is the active ingredient in marijuana and does cross the placenta. It
is stored in the amniotic fluid that the baby lives in prior to birth.
It is possible that marijuana use in pregnancy is associated with and , with all the associated dangers of low birth weight including
infections and breathing problems.
Caffeine . A stimulant found in colas,
coffee, tea, soft candies, chocolate, cocoa, and over-the-counter
and prescription drugs, caffeine has been a controversial topic in
pregnancy nutrition for more than a decade. A 1980 study by FDA found
that caffeine, when fed to pregnant rats, caused birth defects and
delayed skeletal development in their offspring. At that time, although
the human implications were unknown, FDA advised pregnant women to
eliminate caffeine from their diets.
Since then, more studies have been done to determine the effects of
caffeine on the fetus. A study of women in Costa Rica, where coffee
consumption is high, showed a significantly and a lower concentration of iron in
mothers who were coffee drinkers. This report indicated that maternal
coffee intake may also contribute to maternal and infant .
The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken
from the following source(s):
Australian Drug Foundation, Alcohol, Other Drugs and pregnancy:
The National Women's Health Information Center (NWHIC) FAQs:
(def;articles & more)