Birth Defects & Exposure to Prescription Drugs in the Womb

Mother is playing with her son

Drug addiction during pregnancy yields devastating consequences to both mother and child. While the majority of mothers wish for nothing more than a healthy pregnancy and baby, addictions can overpower even the best of intentions if not dealt with professionally and assertively.

Some mothers may become pregnant unknowingly while taking a prescription medication and other women may need a particular medication to treat a health condition or problem while pregnant. Whatever the situation, prescription drug use during pregnancy can prove dangerous if not properly supervised by qualified health professionals.

Prevention Is a Priority

In order to prevent potentially damaging consequences resulting from prescription drug abuse during pregnancy, it is important to understand what constitutes as substance misuse. While the use of some medications during pregnancy are necessary and approved as directed by a medical doctor, other signs may indicate that a more severe problem is at hand.

For example, prescription drug abuse would involve:

  • The use of someone else’s medication
  • Ingesting more medicine from your prescription than instructed
  • Mixing your prescription drug with other drugs or alcohol

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

Prescription medications that are commonly abused include:

Problems Caused from Abusing Drugs During Pregnancy

Sleeping_baby_with_arm_extendedAbusing prescription drugs during pregnancy can present a range of problems for the developing baby, including birth defects, low birth-weight, or miscarriage. Perhaps one of the most distressing results of prescription drug abuse is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), or a condition a newborn can develop when a baby becomes addicted and dependent on a drug before birth.

Because prescription drugs transfer to the developing baby from the mother during pregnancy, an infant can essentially become addicted to the drug and suffer withdrawals from the medication after birth.

Withdrawal symptoms that a baby can experience as a result of NAS include:

  • Dehydration
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Respiratory problems
  • Feeding difficulties
  • Irritability

Babies born with NAS will typically require a tremendous amount of specialized nursing care to recover from drug withdrawal. While most babies can recover from NAS, long-term consequences are not fully understood, and treatment for withdrawal can be both expensive and dangerous.

Many newborns will require the use of medications for stabilization during the withdrawal phase, and these medications alone can prove fatal.

Taking Addiction Seriously and Getting Treatment

Tackling addiction issues before conception is the best approach to preventing life-threatening consequences to both mother and baby during pregnancy. For women who are addicted to drugs during their pregnancy, it is crucial to seek immediate and professional health care.

Early intervention can prevent the myriad of negative risks that can unfold for mothers and babies during this precious time of growth and development.

Blog Contributed By: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on September 27, 2014
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 19, 2018
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