National Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week begins this year on Mother’s Day and lasts for a week. During this week, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and other groups seek to educate the public about the dangers of drinking alcohol and using drugs during pregnancy. These dangerous substances can cause serious birth defects in the unborn child that can affect him or her for the rest of life and can also seriously harm the mother.
Preventing the Dangers of Birth Defects
Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause a wide array of symptoms. Most concerning is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. This syndrome can cause developmental delays, such as difficulty speaking and learning. The possibility of the fetus developing this syndrome is more pronounced in mothers who binge drink. Alcohol use during pregnancy can also lead to premature birth, miscarriage, low birth weight and birth defects, such as hearing and vision issues and heart defects.
Street drugs or illicit drugs used during pregnancy can lead to all of these same symptoms as well as problems with the placenta and small head circumference of the fetus. Women who share needles may have problems with blood-related infections during pregnancy, such as AIDS and hepatitis C. In addition, babies who are born to mothers who used addictive substances during pregnancy may go through withdrawal symptoms once they are born.