UNION COUNTY — If you’re thinking about getting pregnant and want to have a healthy baby, it’s very important to avoid drug use during pregnancy. Substance use can have lasting effects on an unborn child. Taking drugs while pregnant can cause birth defects. Birth defects are serious conditions that are changes to the structure of one or more parts of the body.
Birth defects occur in 1 of every 33 babies and are the leading cause of infant death. These problems exists at birth and are caused by genetics, the environment and other known and unknown causes. Environmental causes of birth defects include chemical and other exposures that occur during pregnancy, including exposure to alcohol and drugs.
Studies show that using drugs, legal or illegal, during pregnancy has a direct impact on the unborn baby. If you smoke, drink alcohol, or ingest caffeine so does the fetus. If you use marijuana or meth, your baby also feels the impact of these dangerous drugs. And if you are addicted to cocaine, you’re not only putting your life in danger but that also of your unborn baby.
Taking drugs during pregnancy not only increases the chance of birth defects; it also can cause premature babies, underweight babies, miscarriages, premature labor and still births. Exposure to drugs such as marijuana and alcohol before birth has been proven to cause behavior problems in early childhood.
Although overlooked by pregnant women, smoking cigarettes causes serious illnesses and premature deaths among unborn babies. Mothers who smoke early in their pregnancy are more likely to deliver babies that have several different heart defects. Sadly, most infants with congenital heart defects die in the first year of life. Those infants that survive often face lengthy hospital stays and numerous surgeries along with a lifetime of disabilities.
While a few prescription and over-the-counter medications are considered “safe” during pregnancy, most drugs are not. If you are taking medications for medical purposes, please follow your doctor’s instructions
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 5.4 percent of pregnant women between ages 18-44 had used alcohol during their first trimester, 4.8 percent in their second trimester, and 2.4 percent in the last trimester of pregnancy. Similar numbers were seen with marijuana, cigarettes and binge alcohol.
Although substance use and abuse during pregnancy causes birth defects, it is not the only cause of birth defect; however is it the one that can be prevented by not using substance during pregnancy.
Remember — Prevention Matters
I welcome the opportunity to have a session or sessions on your concerns, questions and interests in the world of prevention. I’m willing to come to your group, church or agency or if you prefer, we can have a session here at Union County Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. For more information, please contact Starlin Phelps at 864-429-1656.
Resources: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention; American Pregnancy Association; National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism; and National Institute of Child Health & Human Development.
Starlin Phelps is Prevention Coordinator for the Union County Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.