Substance abuse during pregnancy is a sad but common reality. Carrying a child is not reason enough for some women to stop drinking, smoking or mismanaging their diet. This tends to happen when the mother is a struggling addict or when the pregnancy was unwanted and therefore uncared for. In a perfect world, the health of every unborn child would be of great concern to its mother, but some women are not able to meet this expectation. The most abused substances by mothers-to-be are, not surprisingly, alcohol and marijuana.
Drinking alcohol while pregnant can have disasterous consequences on the unborn child’s health. These health risks have been aptly grouped under the heading Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. It is a small percentage of the population that is affected by this disorder, an approximate 1-percent, but it still creates a grave outlook for those affected. Women who engage in alcohol consumption while pregnant are likely to give birth to a child who will exhibit problems learning, memorizing and socializing. Often, their facial features will have a different appearance as well.
Marijuana use during pregnancy can also be very detrimental to an unborn child’s health. Research in this area is not very advanced, but what research we do have would suggest that heavy marijuana use during pregnancy frequently results in developmental disabilities, learning problems and distorted facial features.
Tragically, a women’s use of alcohol and drugs can create a chemical dependency within the unborn fetus. When the baby is born, it may experience withdrawal symptoms for the substance. Later in life, the individual will be far more likely to have addiction problems of their own due to their exposure at an early age. These are problems that critically need to be addressed in North America, but progress in finding a solution is being made very slowly.