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Article Summary

Fetal Drug Addiction

When a pregnant woman is addicted to drugs, her unborn baby will suffer with fetal drug addiction. Fetal drug addiction is a very serious issue because most drugs cross the placenta, the organ that provides nourishment to the baby. A mother taking illegal drugs and/or misusing prescription drugs during pregnancy increases her risk for anemia, blood and heart infections, skin infections, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases. She is also at greater risk for sexually transmitted diseases which can negatively affect the baby too.

Not all infants show the same effects from fetal drug addiction.  Effects depend upon genetic factors, maternal health, chemicals used, patterns of use, duration of use, and health care received.

Fetal Drug Addiction Characteristics

  • Intrauterine growth retardation
  • Prematurity
  • Low birth weight
  • Shorter than average height
  • Smaller head circumference
  • Genito-urinary malformations
  • Bone/skeletal defects
  • Missing fingers or toes
  • Cerebral infractions
  • Apnea
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Asthma, allergies
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Fevers
  • Sweating
  • Tearing
  • Frequent yawning
  • Hypertonic
  • Hypotonic
  • Hyperactive or hypoactive reflexes
  • Visual difficulties
  • Sleep abnormalities
  • Eating difficulties
  • Easily over-stimulated
  • Difficulty in consoling or comforting
  • Lethargy
  • Low score on Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment

Harmful Drugs To The Fetus

The drugs with the most obvious effects are alcohol, cocaine, heroin, methadone, amphetamines, PCP, marijuana, and cigarettes.  Cigarette smoking increases the effects of some of these drugs and the use of multiple drugs and resulting addiction is the rule rather than the exception.

During pregnancy, a woman needs to take active steps to combat her drug addiction, if not for herself, then for the good of her unborn child. While most drugs don't necessarily cause deformities, what they can do is stunt the growth of the child leading to low birth weight and having a baby born with fetal drug addiction. Once that child takes his or her first breath, they begin the painful process of drug withdrawal. This puts stress on the baby's organs. This added stress to the baby makes them extremely uncomfortable and often leads to an unhappy life.

If you are pregnant and addicted to drugs, then your unborn baby suffers from fetal drug addiction. You owe it to yourself and to your child to end your drug addiction and choose to have a healthy pregnancy. This should be an exciting time in your life, but when you are struggling with drug addiction, it can be painful. Treatment can help you overcome your addiction to drugs once and for all.

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