Substance Abuse During Pregnancy: Points to Ponder

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Substance Abuse During Pregnancy - Points to Ponder

Pregnancy is an extraordinary and sensitive time in your life. If you want to conceive a healthy baby, then you have to steer clear of abusing drugs while pregnant.
In pregnancy, drug treatments may be completely unavoidable for some women, especially those with medical conditions that may require continuous treatment (e.g., asthma, hypertension). However, drug use during pregnancy poses a special concern due to the drugs’ potential teratogenic effects and the physiological adjustments that take place in response to pregnancy.

Drugs are considered teratogens – agents that cause abnormality in fetal development following the exposure of the pregnant woman. That is why drug abuse in pregnancy and its effects on the newborn can be devastating. Despite this, it’s unfortunate that several women in the U.S. use some form of illegal drug, like cocaine, during their childbearing age.

The concern about pregnancy and drug abuse is still prevalent among women. With that said, here are some recent facts that you need to know about drug abuse.

#1 Illegal drugs cause addiction to both the mother and her child.

If you think that the mother is the only one affected by drug dependence and addiction, think again! An article by Stanford Children’s Health revealed that illicit substances could also bring about addiction to the fetus.

Drug use during pregnancy can affect the fetus in the following ways:

  • Direct effects on the fetus may lead to abnormal development, birth defects, or even death.
  • Indirect effects can also occur. For instance, drugs taken to lower blood pressure may also lessen the blood flow to the placenta, reducing the oxygen and nutrient supply from the mother.
  • Drugs can alter the placenta’s function, specifically causing blood vessels to constrict, reducing the supply of oxygen and nutrients for the fetus. This eventually leads the baby to be underweight or underdeveloped.
  • Uterus muscles can contract forcefully, indirectly harming the fetus by a reduced blood supply or, in extreme cases, triggering preterm labor and delivery.

The drugs taken by a pregnant woman can harm the fetus after making its way through the same route taken by oxygen and nutrients – the placenta.

#2 Drug transfer happens at the placenta.

The placenta is vital for the growth and development of the fetus as it acts as a functional unit between fetal blood and maternal blood. The placenta plays a role in nutrition, excretion, respiration, metabolism, and endocrine functions that ensure strong fetal and maternal well-being.

If a woman is abusing drugs while pregnant, the drug causes a pharmacological effect on the fetus by crossing from the maternal blood circulation to the fetal circulation through the process called diffusion.

Only free unbound drugs and moderately lipid-soluble drugs can diffuse across the placenta membrane. However, drugs that do not cross the placenta may still harm the fetus by affecting the uterus or the placenta itself.

The transplacental drug transfer increases during the third trimester, wherein both the placental and maternal blood flow and the placenta’s surface area increase while the placenta’s thickness decreases.

#3 There are several kinds of abused drugs during pregnancy.

Drug abuse in pregnancy and the effects on the newborn varies on the type of drugs involved. Unfortunately, illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine are some of the most harmful to the fetus. Marijuana during pregnancy can be linked to the fetus’ cognitive and behavioral problems, while cocaine has a lot of adverse effects on the fetus – among these are miscarriage, premature detachment, stillbirth, and low birth weight.

Commonly used over-the-counter (OTC) medicines (such as opioid pain relievers), caffeine, and alcohol can also have lasting effects on the fetus. A study published on the U.S. National Library of Medicine revealed that the most used substance during pregnancy is nicotine, followed by alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine, respectively.
Moreover, there has been a report about a five-fold increase in opiate use in pregnancy between 2000 and 2009, occurring coincidentally with opiate prescription misuse.

#4 There are challenges and limitations to clinical trials.

Pregnancy and drug abuse have been a problem, as most clinicians only have a restricted approach to treating drug use during pregnancy. Also, pregnant women have usually been excluded from medical trials, and the results from animal studies do not always apply to the human population. For instance, the FDA’s classification system was largely based on animal studies, and the same effects have not been seen in people.

Studies on the effects of drugs on pregnant women were only a few and limited, making it more difficult to determine the risks of drug use during pregnancy.

If you want to know more about the effects of substance abuse on men and their families and what available treatment and therapies are available to help at our drug rehab in Nashville. Give us a call at (850) 622-3774 or (888) 622 3702.