Pregnancy And Substance Abuse

It is essential for pregnant mothers to lead healthy lives. They must follow a nutritious diet, get adequate rest and perform regular light exercise. Anything that affects the health of the mother is sure to affect the health of the developing baby.

Therefore pregnant mothers must avoid any substance that could adversely affect her and the child. Substance abuse during pregnancy is extremely harmful as it affects the mother’s ability to sustain the pregnancy and carry the baby to term in a healthy manner. Drugs and other harmful substances could also affect prenatal growth and development.

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Substance abuse during pregnancy involves excessive use and dependence on any type of substance that has negative effects on the body and mind. This includes use of illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin, over the counter and prescription medical drugs, tobacco and alcohol. Some drugs can cause harm when taken at any stage during pregnancy while some drugs may have adverse effects at certain stages. The baby’s organs and vital systems form in the first 10 weeks of the pregnancy. Certain substances such as alcohol can impair the formation of the fetal structures including facial features, limbs and heart. Drug abuse during pregnancy can also affect the development of the nervous systems which occurs after week 10 of the pregnancy. It could even lead to a miscarriage. A huge danger of drug intake during pregnancy is impairment of normal growth. This is known as intrauterine growth retardation and results in low birth weight babies. Such babies face many health problems, some of which can even be fatal.

Alcohol abuse during pregnancy is an extremely dangerous habit. When alcohol is consumed, it is broken down into a compound which damages the cell. This compound is easily absorbed by the fetus. Excessive intake of alcohol during pregnancy can lead to several birth defects which are classified under the term fetal alcohol syndrome. Heart defects, mental retardation, impaired growth and abnormal facial features can all occur due to this condition. Doctors maintain that pregnant mothers should refrain from even the milder alcohol beverages and avoid alcohol entirely. Smoking in pregnancy can elevate the risk of premature labor and miscarriage. Nicotine has a suppressive effect on the appetite and hence prevents the woman from gaining weight. An abuse of a different kind is domestic abuse during pregnancy. Women who are victims of this abuse must seek help from the appropriate authorities immediately.

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