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Alcohol and drugs in pregnancy

Alcohol and drugs in pregnancy can have a negative impact on your developing baby.

Almost everything that enters your body, both good and bad, will be shared with your baby.  Your growing baby is very sensitive to drugs that you may take, and is not able to get rid of these from their developing systems in the same way that you can, making them particularly vulnerable.  Alcohol, cigarettes and street drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin and amphetamines, are all known to have harmful effects on your developing baby.

Pregnancy can also affect the way that your body handles these drugs, making some drugs even more harmful for you and your baby.

In general, drugs can cause the following risks for you baby during pregnancy:

  • Miscarriage and stillbirth
  • Low birth weight – placing your baby at increased risk of illness, mental retardation and learning disabilities
  • Premature birth – increasing the risk of lung, eye and learning problems in your baby, as well as increasing their likelihood of premature death
  • Medical problems and birth defects – including stroke, seizure, mental retardation and learning difficulties
  • Drug dependency in the infant – causing great distress, as the baby will need to withdraw from substances following birth.

The impacts of alcohol and drugs in pregnancy

Not only are there such direct impacts upon the fetus during pregnancy but there are also negative impacts of alcohol and drugs on the baby at the time of birth and the years to follow.  We now know that many drugs have harmful impacts that span throughout the child’s life from infancy through to adolescence and adulthood.  In addition to these direct affects of alcohol and drugs, we also know that mothers who use these substances are more at risk of being involved in accidents and prone to overdose, diseases and infections, again both you placing you and your developing baby at greater risk.  Remember, your developing baby cannot choose whether or not to use alcohol and drugs – but you can.  Giving up alcohol and drugs can be very, very hard.  There is, however, support that is free and available to help you.  Whilst it may be hard, it is important to be informed and to understand about the impacts of alcohol and drugs on you and your baby.

When asked about any drinking or drug use, my first instinct was just to lie and say that I didn’t use any drugs, but then I also was worried in the back of my mind what this could be doing to the baby.

Being informed about the different affects that alcohol and drugs may have can help give you strong reasons and even strong motivation to stop.  Providing your baby with a healthy environment is the best thing you can do right now for you, your baby and your baby’s future.

Getting help for alcohol and drugs in pregnancy

Although it may be hard, and you may fear being judged by others, it is important to get help and support as soon as possible.  There are many people specially trained to assist you at this time.  A good place to start is by talking to your health professional.  If you do not feel comfortable talking about your current situation with your health professional, you can ask to be referred to a service where you can find out more and seek specialist support.

I swallowed my pride and told the midwife and she referred me to a service which helped me.  I don’t think I could have done it alone, it was hard, but at least I had support.

Many hospitals have specialist departments and health professionals to provide you with the support you may need, or have knowledge of other specialist services in your area.