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Substance Abuse and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know



Substance abuse during pregnancy can cause serious problems for the developing fetus and the mother. There are numerous ways in which various substances can affect both mother and baby.


Many substances pass from the mother’s bloodstream to the fetus via the umbilical cord. This is why it’s so important to carefully consider what you’re putting into your body when you’re pregnant.


Here are a few reasons substance abuse and pregnancy don’t go well together.


Some Substances Can Cause Low Birth Weight


Several substances can cause a low birth weight in newborn infants. One notable substance that many people don’t think is a big problem is marijuana. It is one of the more commonly used substances during pregnancy, and it is associated with low birth weight in neonates.


The problems associated with low birth weight include that it is a risk factor for neonatal mortality. Additionally, the research shows it is associated with health, growth, and developmental problems as well as chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Developmental Disabilities and Substance Use During Pregnancy


Certain substances used by the mother during pregnancy, most notably alcohol, have been known to cause developmental disabilities in children. The range of developmental disorders caused by alcohol is known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FASDs include the following signs and symptoms:

  • Abnormal facial features

  • Small head size

  • Shorter-than-average height

  • Low body weight

  • Poor coordination

  • Hyperactive behavior

  • Difficulty with attention

  • Poor memory

  • Difficulty in school

  • Learning disabilities

  • Speech and language delays

  • Intellectual disability or low IQ

  • Poor reasoning and judgment skills

  • Sleep and sucking problems as a baby

  • Vision or hearing problems

  • Problems with the heart, kidney, or bones

The CDC further states that there is no known safe amount of alcohol that can be used during pregnancy.


Substance Use During Pregnancy Can Cause Birth Defects


The use of certain substances during pregnancy can cause birth defects in your child. Notable substances associated with birth defects include alcohol, opioids, and cigarettes.


Any substance that has the ability to cause birth defects is called a teratogenic substance, and some of the most common birth defects associated with such substances include the following:

  • FASDs – associated with alcohol use during pregnancy, but other substances can cause a similar range of symptoms

  • Abnormal development of the face and limbs – These include things like a cleft lip or palate or clubfoot.

  • Ear malformations – This might mean a malformed earlobe or one that is missing entirely.

  • Congenital heart malformations – These are problems with the structure of the heart.

  • Anal atresia – With this condition, the child may have a thin membrane of skin that is blocking the opening to their anus or they may be missing the anal opening altogether.

  • Persistent pulmonary hypertension – This limits the amount of oxygen that can get to the brain and other organs.

  • Omphalocele – This is a condition where the intestines are protruding outside the body.

Sober Sidekick Can Help You Stay Sober!


These facts about substance use and pregnancy are scary, and they should be. If you’re pregnant and using, it’s important to understand how you might be affecting your baby’s health. That’s not meant to be a judgment; instead, it’s a wake-up call.


Sober Sidekick can help you kick the habit so that you can be healthier both during and after your pregnancy. We’re a community of recovering addicts who know how hard it is to stay sober even though you love your baby, and we can help. Give it a try today!


Image: Freepik


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