Although pregnancy is a life-changing event that motivates many women to seek help for drug addiction, others continue to struggle during pregnancy. The consequences of drug abuse during pregnancy can be devastating for both the mother and unborn child.
The Process of Addiction
Unborn babies that are continually exposed to drugs in the womb are highly susceptible to a host of physical and neurological maladies. During this incredibly developmental time in the womb, drugs can interrupt and destroy the natural formation of a fetus.
Along with physical and mental damage, newborns can also be born chemically dependent on the drugs, a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
NAS causes intense discomfort and increases the likelihood of long-term damage to newborns.
Drugs and Unborn Children
Cocaine and methamphetamine abuse increases the likelihood of a premature birth, miscarriage or stillbirth. NAS, on the other hand, generally occurs when a fetus is continually exposed to addictive narcotics like heroin, buprenorphine, oxycodone and methadone.
In all cases of drug use during pregnancy, narcotic chemicals pass from mother to baby via the bloodstream. Drugs eventually pass through the placenta, which supplies vital nourishment to the unborn baby, including food and oxygen.
In cases of opiate addiction, pregnant women must detox under medical supervision. Going “cold turkey” can cause severe problems for the unborn baby and, in severe cases, even death.
What Does NAS Look Like?
Some of the common symptoms of NAS include:
- Excessive Sweating
- Blotchy Skin
- Difficulty Sleeping
- Excessive Crying
- Difficulty in Movement
- Difficulty Feeding
- Problems Reacting To Stimuli
Timing is Everything
Women who don’t know they are pregnant over the first several weeks of gestation may have time to seek treatment before causing irrevocable harm to the fetus.
Important steps in the gestational timeline include:
Two Weeks: During the first two weeks of development, scientists believe embryos are resistant to the negative effects of drugs.
Two to Ten Weeks: The development is vitally important for the central nervous system and organ development during this time. Any drug abuse at this point can cause severe psychical and neurological damage.
Twenty-Eight Weeks: Drug abuse during the third trimester poses the greatest risk for premature birth, stunted fetal growth and neonatal abstinence syndrome.
Additional Reading: Free Pregnancy Tests Coming to a Bar Near You
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