Substance Abuse During Pregnancy

In general, risks to the unborn fetus from substance abuse can include:

Premature Labor and Birth

When an infant is born before the 37th week of pregnancy or about three weeks earlier than the due date, it is considered to be premature. Premature labor can be caused by several factors including, health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease or drug addiction.

Premature infants can have difficulty breathing, maintaining a consistent body temperature and eating or drinking. Premature organs are underdeveloped, and they typically require intensive medical support for weeks or even months.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal alcohol syndrome is caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy. When a woman consumes alcohol while pregnant, the alcohol along with anything else consumed travels through the umbilical cord to the baby. There is no safe amount of alcohol that a woman can drink during pregnancy. Even an occasional glass of wine can have consequences, and alcohol can cause FAS at any time during pregnancy.

 Substance Abuse During Pregnancy
 Substance Abuse During Pregnancy

Miscarriage and Stillbirth

A miscarriage happens when a prenatal dies in the womb before the 24th week of pregnancy.  It is estimated that between 10 and 15 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Miscarriages can be caused by a variety of health conditions, including alcohol or drug abuse, chromosome problems, various diseases and infections, and eating disorders. A stillbirth is when a baby is born with no sign of life after the 24th week.  This can happen for all sorts of reasons, but is most commonly caused by placental abnormalities. Smoking and the use of drugs and alcohol can contribute to stillbirth.

Neonatal Abstinence or Postnatal Withdrawal Syndrome – NAS/PWS

Neonatal Abstinence or Postnatal Withdrawal syndrome refers to a number of complications affecting infants born to mothers who are addicted to opioids. The drugs pass through the placenta, and the baby becomes dependent on them. The infant suffers withdrawal when it doesn’t receive the drugs after birth.

NAS/PWS can also cause premature labor, low weight and small body size. Infants with NAS/PWS must be gradually detoxed using medication. Babies born to addictive drugs such as nicotine, amphetamines or cocaine can suffer long-term health problems, but there isn’t any indication that they suffer from NAS/PWS.

Placental Abruption

Placental abruption occurs when the placenta separates from the uterine wall before labor. It is rarely triggered by direct causes such as a fall, an automobile accident or an impact to the abdomen. It is more commonly caused by smoking cigarettes, consuming alcohol or abusing other drugs. The condition is seldom deadly, but it can lead to developmental problems.

Miscarriage and Stillbirth

A miscarriage happens when a prenatal dies in the womb before the 24th week of pregnancy.  It is estimated that between 10 and 15 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Miscarriages can be caused by a variety of health conditions, including alcohol or drug abuse, chromosome problems, various diseases and infections, and eating disorders. A stillbirth is when a baby is born with no sign of life after the 24th week.  This can happen for all sorts of reasons, but is most commonly caused by placental abnormalities. Smoking and the use of drugs and alcohol can contribute to stillbirth.

Neonatal Abstinence or Postnatal Withdrawal Syndrome – NAS/PWS

Neonatal Abstinence or Postnatal Withdrawal syndrome refers to a number of complications affecting infants born to mothers who are addicted to opioids. The drugs pass through the placenta, and the baby becomes dependent on them. The infant suffers withdrawal when it doesn’t receive the drugs after birth.

NAS/PWS can also cause premature labor, low weight and small body size. Infants with NAS/PWS must be gradually detoxed using medication. Babies born to addictive drugs such as nicotine, amphetamines or cocaine can suffer long-term health problems, but there isn’t any indication that they suffer from NAS/PWS.

Placental Abruption

Placental abruption occurs when the placenta separates from the uterine wall before labor. It is rarely triggered by direct causes such as a fall, an automobile accident or an impact to the abdomen. It is more commonly caused by smoking cigarettes, consuming alcohol or abusing other drugs. The condition is seldom deadly, but it can lead to developmental problems.

Low Birth Weight

A baby weighing less than five pounds and eight ounces at birth is considered low weight. About eight percent of babies are born with low birth weight, and some are still considered healthy. Others suffer breathing problems, heart problems, intestinal problems, vision problems or bleeding in the brain. Low birth weight may lead to future health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or obesity.

Small Head Size

Microcephaly (commonly referred to as small head circumference), usually means an infant’s brain is not developing correctly. The skull grows as the brain grows, so a small head circumference at birth usually means the brain did not grow properly in the womb.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

SIDS refers to the unexpected and sudden death of a baby less than one year old. Although autopsies do not show any explainable cause of death, babies born to mothers who abused drugs during pregnancy die of SIDS at higher rates than those born to women who did not use drugs during pregnancy.

 Substance Abuse During Pregnancy

Other Complications

In addition to those listed above, research indicates that there are other substance-related developmental changes that could become significant issues later in life, including behavior/learning deficits and slower growth rates in some children.

At The Family Place, our only clients are addicted pregnant women and moms with young children. This specialty allows our treatments and therapies to be laser focused on the common needs of these women while at the same time; creating a personal program to address individualized needs of each client.  The Family Place is one of only a few treatment centers located in the USA whose sole focus is on the underserved needs of women in need.

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