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There is no denying that the use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs during pregnancy will expose both the woman and the developing fetus to the substance. 

The impact of this can be devastating. This can have a deleterious and even a long-term impact on the child that has been exposed to drugs or alcohol. With that being said, in this post, we are going to provide advice for anyone who is pregnant and is battling some form of substance addiction. This information can also be useful if you are worried about a friend or family member who is in this position.

What impact can drugs and alcohol have when a woman is pregnant?

There are a number of different health problems that can arise if a person is pregnant and they are addicted to drugs or alcohol. If you were to drink during your pregnancy, this could result in a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. This means that your child could experience behavioural and cognitive issues as well as being very low in weight when born. When it comes to the use of drugs, there has been proof that some babies can be born with what is known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which means they effectively have withdrawal symptoms. Babies with this condition are at greater risk of low birth weight, as well as feeding difficulties, respiratory problems, seizures, and even death.

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So, can a baby be born with a drug addiction?

Your baby will not be born with a drug or alcohol addiction if you have one. However, this does not mean that you have nothing to worry about. In fact, there is a great concern because babies can be born with drugs in their system. This is because your umbilical cord delivers the drugs to your baby. This can mean that the baby experiences a great amount of pain and there are a number of other health issues that can arise as well. Sadly, the number of babies born with NAS has gotten higher in recent times. This is because of the increase in opioid misuse. 

Why should you be concerned about neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)?

There is no denying that neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a great concern. If a mother utilise illicit substances, then her baby is going to be at risk of many different health problems. Moreover, a mother who is addicted to any type of substance is going to be less likely to get the prenatal care required, which only heightens the risks for her and her baby too. Not only this, but a lot of women use more than one drug when they are addicted, and this can also lead to complications when it comes to treatment. 

There are a number of different problems that a baby can experience if it has been exposed to substances that it should have been. The most common are birth defects, seizures, premature birth, and poor intrauterine growth.

Of course, there are some drugs that have very specific effects. For example, we have already spoken about how alcohol can have a negative impact on the growth of the fetus. This is because it has a slowing effect on the baby’s growth. This not only relates to during pregnancy but it can refer to after birth too. Specific deformities for the heart, face and head can be seen with FASDs, as well as intellectual disabilities. 

In terms of marijuana use, this has been linked to babies with lower birth weights. If a mother uses cocaine, this can lead to a lower IQ in her child, as well as learning disabilities, developmental delay, and poor fetal growth. When it comes to amphetamines, this has been linked with premature birth and low birthweight. Finally, we have heroin and other opiates, for example, methadone. These drugs are known to cause considerable withdrawal within a baby. Some babies will experience these symptoms for as long as six months, which can be incredibly uncomfortable and painful for them. Moreover, for mothers addicted to methadone, their babies can suffer seizures.

What drugs cause neonatal abstinence syndrome?

There is no denying that some drugs are more likely to cause this condition than others. However, the truth is that all types and forms of drugs can have a negative effect. Opiates, for example, methadone and heroin, can cause withdrawal in more than 50 per cent of the babies that are exposed prenatally. Cocaine can cause some withdrawal symptoms. However, the main symptoms a baby will encounter with this drug is because of the drug’s toxic effects itself. Withdrawal can also be caused by other drugs such as barbiturates and amphetamines. Alcohol use can also cause withdrawal. And, as mentioned, this is also responsible for birth defects, which include fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. 

All things considered, there is no denying that there are a huge number of risks when it comes to anyone doing drugs or drinking alcohol while they are pregnant. This is a risk that is not worth taking. However, many women feel like they have no choice. Being addicted is not something that you can just switch off overnight. Although you love your unborn child unconditionally, this sometimes is not enough to help a person with an addiction. This is why it is highly recommended that you go to rehab. Not only can going to rehab help you to get the assistance you need so that you can get over your addiction once and for all but withdrawal symptoms will be managed, as will the health of your baby, to ensure the best possible outcome for both of you. 

If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction then please call our free helpline on 0203 955 7700 and an expert will be at hand to offer you a free consultation.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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