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.

[su_note note_color=”#F0F0F0″]While most people understand the dangers inherent in drug and alcohol use during pregnancy, 1% of mothers continue in this habit. Physicians warn expectant mothers as well as women who believe they could be pregnant that they should avoid alcohol altogether, that they should not use street drugs and that they should check any prescription or over-the-counter drugs with their physicians before using them. In fact, alcohol and drug use that occurred up to three months before pregnancy began can affect the unborn child. Therefore, women who are planning to become pregnant should avoid these substances.[/su_note]

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.

[su_note note_color=”#F0F0F0″]The best way to deal with these problems is to stop alcohol and drug use in its tracks before pregnancy. At First Step Recovery Center, Dr. Matney can work with women to develop a plan for quitting usage of these substances and for living a healthy lifestyle instead. With outpatient programs, women will be able to continue many aspects of their normal lives while also taking part in individual and group therapy.[/su_note]