7 Harmful Effects Of Drugs During Pregnancy

Drugs During Pregnancy

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Are you pregnant or planning to conceive shortly? Are you wary of taking any medications during this period? If yes, then it is extremely important you avoid taking drugs during pregnancy. If you take some over-the-counter medicines along with alcohol or caffeine, it can also lead to lifelong defects in your unborn baby.

Here, we talk about the harmful effects of drugs during pregnancy. To learn more about such drugs, and how they can affect your unborn baby’s health, read the post carefully!

What Are Drugs?

Drugs are substances obtained from natural substances or through chemical processes. A drug transforms the physical or mental state of the human body. Doctors prescribe the useful medicinal prescription drugs to treat numerous health discomforts or diseases. But there are certain psychoactive drugs extremely harmful during your pregnancy (1).

Classification Of Psychoactive Drugs:

Here, we discuss the broad classification of psychoactive drugs:

1. Depressants:

Quite like the name, depressants slow down the activity of your central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). A depressant can hamper your concentration ability and slow down your breathing and heart rate. During pregnancy, it is important for your body to retain the optimum health conditions. Taking depressants can disturb your normal body functioning and hamper your fetal development. Hence, you should strictly avoid consumption of such depressants in your delicate phase of pregnancy.

Examples of depressants are heroin, alcohol, cannabis, prescribed drug group of benzodiazepines and tranquilizers.

2. Stimulants:

Stimulants trigger the activity of your central nervous system, making your extra alert. Stimulants make you feel exhausted and tired. Examples of stimulants are caffeine, cocaine, nicotine, methamphetamines and ecstasy.

3. Hallucinogens:

Hallucinogens can lead to aural, visual and physical hallucinations. Examples of hallucinogens are cannabis and ecstasy (2).

Harmful Effects Of Drugs During Pregnancy:

If you take drugs during pregnancy, they directly reach your fetus, by crossing the placenta. It takes the same route through which the oxygen and nutrients travel to your unborn fetus.

Drug use during pregnancy gives rise to numerous health complexities and affects the growing fetus in numerous ways:

  1. The drugs directly reach your growing fetus and cause severe damage to the fetus including abnormal body development or even death.
  1. A drug actively alters the functioning of the placenta. It narrows the blood vessels and reduces the supply of oxygen and vital nutrients to your fetus. It causes your baby to born as underweight or underdeveloped.
  1. The drugs contract the muscles and inner lining of the uterus. It reduces the supply of blood and indirectly injures the growing fetus. Such a condition triggers preterm labor and pregnancy complexities.
  1. Regular intake of drugs lowers your blood pressure level. As a result, your unborn fetus receives less supply of blood, oxygen, and vital nutrients.
  1. Low birth weight places your newborn baby at greater risks of disability, mental retardation, learning disability, long-term consequences, and even death.
  1. Premature birth imposes increases chances of learning, lung and eye problems.
  1. Illicit drugs increase risks of your newborn baby to suffer from birth defects and health complexities including stroke, seizure, and mental retardation (3).

Avoid Illegal Drug Use During Pregnancy:

Illicit drug use during pregnancy can lead to developmental problems in your growing fetus. Research concludes that the intake of both legal as well as illegal drugs during pregnancy has a direct connection to your unborn baby. Whether you smoke, drink or ingest caffeine, the impact falls directly on the growing fetus.

Drug abuse during pregnancy, especially the sensitive phase increases the risks of birth defects, underweight babies, stillbirth and premature babies. Such drugs trigger cognitive troubles in your unborn baby.

Following is a list of drugs that hampers growth of your fetus and harshly affects its birth conditions:

1. Amphetamines:

An intake of this drug increases your unborn baby to suffer from heart defects. If you take these drugs during your phase of pregnancy, it imposes risks of placental problems, miscarriage, and preterm birth. Your newborn baby experiences the symptoms of weakness, dysphoria, agitation, and exhaustion (4).

2. Cocaine:

Cocaine crosses your placenta and enters your baby’s circulatory tract easily. During the early stage of pregnancy, having cocaine contracts your uterus and increase the risks of miscarriage. In the later phases of pregnancy, cocaine triggers placental abruption. It gives rise to the conditions of preterm birth, bleeding, growth retardation, birth defects in babies and fetal death. Medical studies conclude that women consuming cocaine during pregnancy have a 25 % increased chance of premature labor.

Some of the other health complexities to occur in your newborn baby include tremors, muscle spasms, feeding difficulty, sleeplessness, defects of kidneys and brain (5).

3. Marijuana:

Smoking marijuana during your pregnancy period might cause your unborn baby to suffer from the conditions of impaired fetal growth. Marijuana might trigger a miscarriage, low birth weight of the baby, preterm birth and baby born with learning disability. The key ingredient of marijuana, Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, easily crosses your placenta and harshly affects the health conditions of your growing fetus.

Studies conclude that smoking marijuana elevates the levels of carbon dioxide and carbon mono oxide in your bloodstream. It reduces the supply of oxygen to your growing fetus (6).

4. Heroin:

Having Narcotics such as heroin during pregnancy can trigger premature labor, bleeding within the brain (intracranial hemorrhage), low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), and breathing difficulties. Additionally, you are more prone to experience sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in your sensitive phase of gestation. Your baby is born addicted to heroin and can also suffer from some of the drug withdrawal symptoms. It includes extreme irritability, high fever, sleep abnormalities, diarrhea, and stiff body joints (7).

5. Glues And Solvents:

Taking the drug can increase your chances of suffering from sudden miscarriage and preterm labor. Some of the common birth defects are short height, low weight, heart defects, joint and limb problems, and abnormal facial features.

6. Tranquilizers:

Tranquilizers such as Valium induce birth defects in your newborn baby.

7. Ecstasy:

The regular use of ecstasy induces the conditions of long-term learning and memory problems in your baby.

8. Hallucinogens:

Hallucinogens like PCP and LSD triggers poor muscle control, low birth weight and brain damage of your baby.

Social Drugs To Avoid During Pregnancy:

When we talk about drugs, cocaine, heroin and even marijuana spring to mind. However, there are more dangerous drugs than these, and they are called social drugs. Some of the social drugs you should consider avoiding include:

1. Alcohol:

Consuming alcohol during pregnancy leads to birth defects. Alcohol triggers fetal alcohol syndrome. Drinking alcohol multiplies your risks of miscarriage and preterm labor. The normal birth weight of a healthy baby is above seven pounds. But addiction to alcohol reduces the weight of your baby to as low as 4 pounds. Fetal alcohol syndrome is one of the most fatal and serious outcomes of alcohol consumption during the delicate phase of pregnancy. The symptoms of the syndrome are facial defects, inadequate growth rate before and after birth, heart problems, and behavioral issues, small head, and cognitive disabilities. Higher addiction of drinking alcohol in your pregnancy triggers condition of severe behavioral problems, including attention deficit disorder and antisocial behavior (8).

2. Cigarette (Tobacco) Smoking:

Smoking tobacco degrades the health conditions of both you and your growing fetus. The most noticeable symptom of cigarette smoking during pregnancy is the low birth weight of your newborn baby. Some of the other health complexities to notice in your baby include heart problems, facial defects, and abnormal brain development. Also, smoking during pregnancy elevates the condition of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The harmful effects of tobacco smoking induce severe harmful effects in your body including dislocation of the placenta, premature rupture of the membranes, uterine infections, stillbirth, miscarriage and premature birth. Tobacco contains carbon monoxide and nicotine. Carbon monoxide reduces the supply of oxygen to your growing fetus. On the other hand, nicotine stimulates the hormones, which restricts the supply of blood to your placenta and uterus. As the fewer amount of nutrients, oxygen and blood reach up to your growing fetus it suffers from growth and behavioral problems (9).

3. Caffeine:

Though a small amount of caffeine causes no harm to your growing fetus, but excess consumption is dangerous. Caffeine is present in most of your regular drinks including coffee, chocolate, tea, and cakes. The stimulant directly crosses the placenta and reaches to your growing fetus. It stimulates the fetus and increases the heart rate. Excessive consumption of caffeine decreases your blood flow rate across the placenta and decreases the absorption rate of iron. Your unborn baby gets an inadequate supply of iron and suffers from anemia.

Some of the other health complexities include premature birth, stillbirth, a low-birth-weight baby, or miscarriage. Medical experts recommend limiting your intake of caffeinated beverages during pregnancy (10).

[ Read: Fetal Anemia During Pregnancy ]

Is It Safe To Have Prescription Drugs During Pregnancy?

Before you take prescription and over the counter drugs during pregnancy, it is important to consult your medical practitioner first. To avoid any discrepancy, go through the labels carefully. By reading the product information, you can get complete information about prescription drugs.

Tips To Consider Before Taking An OTC Drug During Pregnancy:

If you have conditions of a severe headache, constipation or heartburn, the doctor prescribes intake of certain OTC drugs. But it is important to follow few essential tips before taking such OTC medications:

1. Try To Follow A Non-Drug Measure:

For some of the common ailments, you can try to follow the effective non-drug measure and see if they can suffice your problem or not. For example, if you have symptoms of extreme stress and headache you can try medication, relaxation exercises or soothing massages. Such non-drug measures treat the stressful conditions and keep you safe from the effects of the OTC medications. To deal with symptoms of cold during pregnancy, try having hot chicken cups rather than using antihistamines and decongestants.

2. Consult Your Doctor:

Never take any OTC medication, without consulting your doctor.

3. Read Labels:

Before buying the OTC medications, take your time and go through the label carefully. Ingredients like alcohol or caffeine impose harmful effects on your growing fetus. For example, Cold and Flu vapor-rub contains alcohol, while Aspirin contains caffeine.

[ Read: Side Effects Of Aspirin During Pregnancy ]

4. Natural Dietary Supplements:

Herbal products or natural dietary supplements are safe during your pregnancy period. But before experimenting with any new supplement or herbal product, consult your doctor.

OTC Medications To Avoid During Pregnancy:

Aspirin and ibuprofen (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are not safer for you in your pregnancy phase. Particularly during the last trimester of pregnancy, you need to avoid these medications. Some of the harmful effects of the drugs are delay labor, birth complexities of your baby and increased the length of labor.

  • Aspirin and ibuprofen (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are not safer for you in your pregnancy phase. Particularly during the last trimester of pregnancy, you need to avoid these medications. Some of the harmful effects of the drugs are delay labor, birth complexities of your baby and increased the length of labor.
  • Short term usage of nasal sprays containing the active ingredient of corticosteroids causes no harm to your baby. But with long-term intake of nasal sprays, it triggers condition of growth impairment in your newborn baby.
  • Intake of OTC painkillers such as Codeine and dihydrocodeine affects your baby’s breathing ability, especially when you take them during the last trimester of pregnancy.
  • Avoid Antihistamine nasal sprays and eye drops.
  • Avoid Nasal decongestants, including phenylephrine, xylometazoline, pseudoephedrine, and oxymetazoline. You can try the home remedy of steam inhalation to get quick relief from nasal congestion (11).

Harmful Effects Of OTC Drugs During Pregnancy:

Using over the counter drugs during pregnancy triggers numerous health complexities in both you and your growing fetus. Some of the observable effects of such medications are:

Complication In Mother:

  • Infertility- You may experience the problems of infertility and not getting pregnant easily.
  • Placenta dislocation- The placenta dislocates within the uterus, and your growing fetus could not get enough supply of food and oxygen through the umbilical cord.
  • Preterm Labor- The labor occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy, and your child takes birth as a premature one.
  • Miscarriage-The growing fetus gets disrupted or damaged before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Infections- Addiction to street drugs increases the risks of getting harmful diseases-producing germs. Your child gets infections of HIV and Hepatitis C.As a victim, you can pass such harmful infections to your growing fetus, and your baby gets the diseases from his birth.
  • Stillbirth- This is the condition when the baby dies in your womb, but the incident occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

[ Read: Measures To Avoid Stillbirth During Pregnancy ]

Complications In Newborn Baby:

  • Premature birth- You give birth to your baby too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Low birth weight- Your baby’s weight falls below the normal birth weight of a healthy baby. Normally for your low weight baby the weight is under five pounds.
  • Smaller head size- Your baby’s head size or circumference is smaller, as compared to his other body parts. The head sizing looks a bit inappropriate.
  • Heart defects- The heart beating is either too fast or slow. Irregular heartbeat triggers the conditions of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Birth defects- Due to the adverse effects of the OTC medications, your child is born with some birth defects. It can be either a face deformity or inappropriately sized head. Such a defect induces several health complexities and impairment in your newborn baby.
  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome- The symptoms of this syndrome can affect your baby.
  • Behavioral problems- Your baby experiences numerous behavioral problems. Some of the problems are learning problems, low concentration level, difficult to make decisions or many such behavioral aspects.
  • Slowed body growth- OTC medications hamper the growth processes of your fetus. Even after birth your baby experiences slow or stunted growth.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (also called SIDS)-The unexplained condition of death occurs in babies of less than 12 months of age. Harmful effects of drugs induce organ failures and the baby experiences sudden death (12).

Teratogenic Drugs To Avoid During Pregnancy:

Doctors suggest avoiding the following to avoid teratogenic effects of drugs during pregnancy:

  • Isotretinoin (an acne drug)
  • high dosage of vitamin A
  • ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) used to treat conditions of high blood pressure or heart failure
  • Some antibiotics
  • Some anticonvulsant medications
  • Some thyroid medications
  • The hormone diethylstilbestrol (DES)
  • Warfarin (Anticoagulant drug)
  • Thalidomide
  • Some cancer-fighting medications
  • Angiotensin II antagonists (used to treat high blood pressure)

Why Is It Harmful To Stop Taking A Prescribed Medication Suddenly?

If you have pre-existing medical conditions of high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma or thyroids take your medications, after consulting with your gynecologist. The medical consultant may even replace some drugs, if necessary.

  • Some of the prescribed medications impose potential side effects to your growing fetus. However, stopping the medication impose serious health complications to both you and your baby. For instance,
  • Stopping to take your asthma medications imposes risk of slow growth rate of your unborn fetus.
  • Stopping to consume your anti-epileptic medications imposes risks of seizures and pregnancy complications.
  • Poorly managed diabetes imposes health deformities for your unborn baby.

Hence, it is always advisable to not stop taking the drugs suddenly. Consult with the doctor first. He may suggest replacing certain drugs or continuing with your earlier ones. The doctor also suggests about the appropriate dosage of your prescribed drugs. Try to follow his instructions carefully and take proper dosage of prescribed medications. Untreated diseases or illnesses impose pregnancy complexities.

How To Limit Intake Of Drugs And OTC Medications During Pregnancy?

Some of the useful tips that help you to limit your intake of harmful drugs and medications during pregnancy are:

  • Limit your intake of caffeinated beverages per day. Keep the level less than 200 mg. The measurement suggests you to have two cups of instant coffee per day.
  • Avoid intake of energy drinks.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Avoid intake of illegal drugs including cocaine, marijuana, heroin and ecstasy.
  • To get rid of drug addiction during pregnancy seek requisite help from an experienced drug counselor or your doctor.
  • Do not use non-prescribed or generic medications during your pregnancy period. Some of the ingredients may induce potential side effects in your growing fetus. It is always advisable to take each and every medication, after consulting your doctor.
  • Whenever possible, try to follow some natural home remedies to cure minor health problems. Natural home remedies can cure problems of cold, sore throat, pain, headache, constipation and many such issues.
  • Gargle with warm salt water to cure problems of a sore throat.
  • Inhale hot steam to treat nasal congestion.

Intake Of Folic Acid During Pregnancy:

The only over the counter medication safe during your pregnancy period is folic acid. Folic acid initiates proper bone and healthy body development of your growing fetus. Doctors prescribe intake of 400 microgram tablet of folic acid daily. Even before getting pregnant, you can take folic acid to give birth to a healthy child. Intake of folic acid regularly prevents risks of birth defects (14).

Important Things To Remember:

Never to intake any prescribed or non-prescribed medications, without consulting the medical practitioner

  • Let your doctor know complete information about your past medical history.
  • Inform your doctor about all the medications, which you take in your everyday life.
  • You need to take different kinds of herbal supplements, OTC medications, social and illicit drugs after consulting with your pharmacist, midwife or the medical consultant.
  • If you have preexisting chronic health diseases like asthma, diabetes or epilepsy, take all medications under the strict supervision of your doctor.
  • To get rid of harmful drug addiction, the doctor may even advise you to go through drug counseling or effective therapies.

By maintaining good health conditions, you can smoothly give birth to your healthy child. The growth and development of your unborn fetus completely depend on the healthy lifestyle you follow during your pregnancy period. Healthy habits of eating nutritious food, practicing health exercises and taking prenatal medications regularly boosts proper development of your growing fetus. On the contrary, being addicted to bad habits like smoking, taking drugs or alcohols imposes harmful effects on your growing fetus.

Did you take any illegal or legal drugs and alcohol during pregnancy phase? Were those drugs harmful to your health conditions? Did they impose critical conditions of sudden miscarriage or bleeding?

Do share your complete views regarding consumption of drugs during pregnancy here! Comment in the box below!

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  • rebecca_sonu

    Harmful drugs should always be avoided during pregnancy, drugs cause harm to the health of the mother and the child too. Drugs can lead to miscarriage and worse….the child may suffer with deformities.