Impact of Drugs during Pregnancy

Impact of drugs during pregnancy

It is very important to understand that whatever you put into your body has probable effects on your unborn child. Many of these things can definitely have harmful effects as well. Illicit drugs, like cocaine, methamphetamine, or opioids can pass on to your unborn child’s body through your placenta and induce a negative impact on your child’s body. There are many side effects of the usage of drugs during pregnancy, But before that let's first understand how pregnancy work.

What is Pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a state of having implanted eggs of conception located in the uterus, it ends through either spontaneous or elective abortion or delivery. During this time the body of a female goes through immense changes involving all organ systems to sustain the growing fetus.

The whole process of pregnancy is divided into 4 stages first trimester, second trimester, third trimester, and the birth. This time period of the 4 stages is known as the gestation period.

Eventually, the consumption of alcohol or any kind of drugs during any of these stages increases the risk of :

  • Miscarriage
  • Premature birth
  • Baby being born with a low birth weight

Many times the effects of drugs can be seen once the baby is born, consuming alcohol can cause a baby to develop serious conditions like Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Illicit drug use during pregnancy may also cause birth defects, stillbirth, withdrawal symptoms in the baby after birth, a higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Poor fetal growth rate, and cognitive and behavioral problems.

Let's take a look at how the structure of the brain can get affected by use of drugs while pregnant.

The Developing Brain

During the first trimester, the neural tube creates cells that form neurons. These are like the building blocks of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). All the major structures of your child's brain and spinal cord can be recognizable just after or before 10 weeks since the conception of the feotus.

During pregnancy, the brain grows rapidly also all processes that involve cell growth happens to take place rapidly. Due to this speedy develpoment, any interference with normal brain development can significantly has impact on physical, cognitive and behaviour also includes intelligence and language skills too.

“The largest body of literature we have currently is around alcohol use during pregnancy and how it affects a child’s growth, neurocognitive development and social-emotional functioning,” said Lindsey Felix, PhD, with Samaritan Neuropsychology .

Most of the drugs pass easily through or crosses the placenta and can affect fetal brain development. Not only illicit drugs but also prescribed medication (over the counter drugs and supplements) can be equally harmful during the pregnancy phase. Prescribed medication such as antacids, laxatives, sleeping pills, cold medication and pain releivers too can affect the feotus.

Let's understand the effects of Substance and its long term effects.

  1. Tobacco/Nicotine - Behavioral problems, including ADHD

  2. Marijuana - Impairments in Attention, visual perceptual abilities, Delinquent behvaiours

  3. Alcohol - Poor physical growth, lower intelligence and attention, academic underacheivement

  4. Cocaine - lower intelligence, attention, language and executive fuctioning (organization, memory, time management, self control and emotional concerns.

  5. Opiods - Attention, memory and behavioral concerns inculding hyperactive.

It has been also observed in many studies how females who had history of consuming substance in past had faced problems in conceiving children later, had (pre-natal/post natal history) and difficult pregnancies.

Normally if you rae breast feeding your new born you are giving a them a healthy start, however if you need to take any prescribed medication you might have questions about how drugs may affect your breast milk, here’s what we need to know:

Almost any drug thats present in the blood will transfer into the breast milk to a very large extent. Few prescribed medications do so at low levels but hardly pose any risk, however there are exceptions though, some drugs can be found imn high levels in breast milk. Exposure to medication/Prescribed drugs in breast milk poses the greast risk to premature babies, new borns and babies who are medically unastable or have any concerns with organ functions. The risk is lowest for the healthy babies of 6 months and older, since at this age drugs metabolize through infants bodies effiiciently. Some times in extreme cases the health care provider might recommend or suggest to stop breast feeding temporarily or permanantly as the situation demands.

It is best to take help of the medical practitioners or alert them before taking any kind of medication. If you are on any kind of psychiatric medication, blood thining or for diabetis or blood pressure and planning to get pregnant, it is best to consult your doctors and make required necessary adjustments or altrations in medication, since taking medication for diabetis and blood thining can have a big effcet on the production of Breastmilk too.

Also it is very helpful to see a mental health practitioner (Psychologist or a Psychiatrist during this phase, since they can guide you in many ways, as simple as how to take charge of ourselves, work on anxiety, moods which can get triggered easily since if you decide to take a break form Substance or prescribed medication also to manage the big emotions and the situations

Image credits: Freepik

Manisha Bagul
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