Substance Abuse And Pregnancy Essay

3191 words - 13 pages

Any substance which flows through a pregnant woman's blood stream; whether it be positive or negative, debilitating or helpful, will pass through placental walls to the developing child she carries. If one considers how negatively toxic substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, and cocaine affect the physical and mental state of a fully developed and healthy adult, it is possible to understand how devastating the effects these same substances have on a child in utero and throughout the course of their development. Examining prevalence rates and current research in the area of how exposure to the aforementioned substances affects children's physical, developmental, cognitive and social growth ...view middle of the document...

The fetus typically measures 10 inches and weighs approximately ½ a pound. Although still highly susceptible to toxins in their mother's body, the fetus at this stage is more fully formed and so at less risk for damage than during the first trimester. The third trimester signals the end of the usual 40 week gestation period and the child's preparedness to leave the womb. (cite)In the year 1992-1993, the National Institute on Drug Abuse/National Institute of Health surveyed pregnant women to ascertain the amount of drug use among pregnant women as part of the National Pregnancy and Health Survey. (www.nida.nih.gov, 2004) This national survey found that of the four million women surveyed, 820,000 smoked cigarettes while pregnant, 757,000 drank alcohol, 221,000 used illegal drugs and of those illegal drug users 45,000 used cocaine. These numbers are alarming because they illustrate that over 20% of pregnant American women expose their children to the dangers of smoking, drinking and illegal drug use. (www.nida.nih.gov, 2004) Cigarette smoking appears as the substance of choice for these women, a choice which is reflected in national trends of substance use. (cite)There tends to be some underlying similarities in the mothers who smoke when they are pregnant. Some of these similarities tend to be that mothers who smoke while they are pregnant are more likely to have dropped out of school, be of lower socio-economic status, and they are more likely to be currently living with a smoker (Haslam & Lawrence 2004). Also, mothers who smoke while they are pregnant are more likely to consumer alcohol as well during their pregnancy; in the first trimester 27'% of women who smoke drank alcohol, in the second trimester that increased to 35% and in the third there were 34% of women who drank and smoked while pregnant (Haslam et al 2004). A major problem for mothers who smoke while they are pregnant is that they are less likely to take the proper amount of folic acid, which is extremely import for women and even more important when pregnant (Haslam et al 2004). Also, the diet of a smoker typically "contains significantly less thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin C, corticoids, and iron than a nonsmoker's diet" (Matthews. Yudkin, Smith & Neil, 2000, as cited in Haslam et al. 2004). Also, part of the problem is some of these women do not know that they need folic acid and certain vitamins while they are pregnant (Haslam et al 2004).This behavior and lack of a proper diet has devastating effects on the children born to these women. These babies are more likely to have health problems which are present at birth. Some of these problems include: respiratory tract infections, asthma, impaired lung function, persistent middle ear infection (citation). There are other physiological effects (able 1980 as cited in Weisman, Warner, Wickrammratne, & Kandle 1999) one being lower birth weight, decreased head circumference and decreased in birth length (Cornelius &...

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