The Effects of Cocaine Use during Pregnancy

effects of cocaineCocaine use already brings enough highly negative and serious side effects to far too many lives the world over, causing the total derailment of people’s plans, dreams and goals. Not to mention dire effects to physical, mental and emotional well-being. As adults, we have the ability to make decisions and take control of our own behavior, while being fully aware of the risks and consequences.

This is especially significant for a pregnant woman who is not only “expecting” but also expected to take responsibility whenever possible for the health of her unborn child, who cannot make choices for him- or herself.

Cocaine Use and the Unborn Baby

During early pregnancy, cocaine use may increase the risk of miscarriage. When cocaine is used late in pregnancy, it can cause premature labor, or the death of an unborn baby. It may also cause the baby to have a stroke that may result in irreversible brain damage.

Women using cocaine during pregnancy:

  • are twice as likely to have a premature baby
  • are likelier to have a low birth-weight baby
  • are more likely to have infants with smaller heads and brains proportionate to body size
  • may experience a condition called placental abruption, where the placenta pulls away from the uterine wall, which can bring about serious bleeding that may be fatal for both mother and baby

The Effects of Cocaine on Newborns

Serious health problems can occur for newborns that were exposed to the effects of cocaine before birth. There is a higher chance of having a baby that has low birth weight compared to the babies of mothers who have avoided the use of cocaine during pregnancy. A low birthweight baby has a high chance of poor growth and potential mental and physical deficiencies, and is 20 times more likely than normal-weight babies to die in the first month of life. Those who survive are at higher risk of disabilities that include mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and visual and/or hearing impairment.

Cocaine-exposed babies tend to score poorly on tests given at birth to assess physical condition and overall responsiveness; they do not do as well on measures of motor ability and reflexes or attention and mood control, and they appear less likely to respond to a human face or voice. This can make bonding difficult, seriously affecting a baby’s overall emotional development.

In addition to feeding problems and sleep disturbances, cocaine exposed babies can go through something comparable to “withdrawal”; they may be excessively nervous and irritable, startling easily and crying at the even the most tender touch or noise. As a result, such babies are extremely challenging to comfort.

The Effects of Cocaine Put Much at Risk

cocaine useAside from the baby, the mother is also at a high risk for health problems and other issues. For example, the effects of cocaine use can also be evident in breastfeeding. It is highly advised that mothers who use cocaine should refrain from breastfeeding, as the drug can stay in the breast milk even 48 hours after the mother’s use of the substance. Some infants are said to experience seizures just by ingesting the mother’s contaminated breast milk.

Beyond the pregnancy and birth stage, neglect and abuse can be serious problems that are often associated with cocaine addiction. This is due to the fact that cocaine users can easily neglect their duties to their families, as well as other vital responsibilities.

Clearly, the birth defects and other serious concerns caused by cocaine use during pregnancy are fully preventable. Women using cocaine should stop before conceiving or delay pregnancy until they believe they can avoid the drug completely throughout the term of gestation. Cocaine is an extremely unsafe substance for unborn babies and whenever possible every precaution should be taken to avoid their exposure to this dangerous drug.


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