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The effects of alcohol, smoking and drugs during pregnancy.

27th Feb 2013

All drugs, including tobacco and alcohol, may endanger the health of a developing baby.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy may have serious effects on your baby. These include physical and neurological anomalies, developmental delay, attention deficiency and hyperactivity. The worst cases of alcoholic intake may lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Some children are slightly affected with FAS, which manifests itself in mildly dysfunctional behaviour, while others may have serious effects as well as facial abnormalities.

Social drinking, more that fifteen ‘units’ per week, can reduce the weight of the baby and more than twenty units per week has been associated with intellectual impairment. Professional medical advice on the volume consumed before damage occurs varies, so we now advise all pregnant women to abstain from alcohol.

Evidence suggests that smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage and premature delivery and can also affect the baby’s growth. Smokers are also more likely to have low birth weight babies. When smoking a cigarette, carbon monoxide and other poisons pass into the mother’s lungs. Consequently, the baby receives less oxygen and growth might be impaired.

As well as their harmful effects on fertility and a man’s sperm, cocaine, heroin and other hard drugs as well as cannabis in all its forms increase the risk of miscarriage, pre-term delivery and birth defects. Cocaine crosses the placenta inhibiting growth because it reduces blood flow to the baby. Cannabis contains THXC, a hormone like chemical, which accumulates in a man’s testicles, it can lower sperm count and affect sperm formation.

A woman addicted to any form of drug must be encouraged to seek help from her doctor and the support services available. Social workers should be contacted for they help people to make plans to tackle the emotional and practical problems they face in their lives. They can give advice about what services are available and contact other people and organisations.

Kensington Midwives encourage all new mothers to talk about their family relationships, friends and support, so that any anxieties that appear during pregnancy, or in the early postnatal days can be discussed and therefore reduced or eliminated.



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