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Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on an Unborn Baby

  • Posted on- Sep 07, 2016
  • 2
Written by site author.

Let's put it like this - when you drink or do drugs while you are pregnant, it's as if your unborn child is also doing the same thing. Studies have shown that consumption of alcohol and drugs during pregnancy can result in birth defects, low birth weight, premature labour and even miscarriage or maternal death. Children who are exposed to drugs and alcohol, while in the womb have many behavioural and learning difficulties as they grow up. This article helps you understand the effects of alcohol and drugs on a developing foetus.

Effects of Drugs on a Foetus

Substance abuse during pregnancy puts the child at great risk. Toxins generated in the mother's body, are passed to the child through the umbilical cord and adversely affect the development of the foetus. Let's look at the effects of different drugs:


Smoking marijuana during pregnancy reduces the supply of oxygen to the foetus, as the level of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the blood increases. As a result the baby grows very slowly and does not gain weight. Use of marijuana during pregnancy has been liked to premature delivery. It is seen that after birth, children exposed to marijuana have various learning difficulties and behavioural problems.


Cocaine enters the child's body through the placenta, and remains much longer than in the mother's body. Use of cocaine increases the risk of miscarriage, vaginal bleeding, placental abortion and birth defects. There are also chances that the baby will be a cocaine addict and will have to suffer withdrawal symptoms like muscle spasms, sleeplessness, feeding difficulties etc. In addition, there is a great risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). As child grows older they may also have learning difficulties and defective genitals and brain.


The effect of methamphetamine on the developing foetus is similar to the effects of cocaine. Taking methamphetamine during pregnancy increases the heart rate of the mother and child and affects the development of organs. It also increases the chances of premature labour, miscarriage and placental abortion. Babies that are born have low body weight and a small head. Long-term effects of methamphetamine include learning difficulties or the child may have a severe concentration problem.


Heroin is a very addictive drug that passes to the foetus through the umbilical cord. There are high chances that the child born will also be a heroin addict and will have to suffer withdrawal symptoms. Some of the symptoms include convulsions, sleep disorder, irritability, fever, diarrhoea and joint stiffness. Use of heroin during pregnancy also increases the chance of low blood sugar, bleeding within the brain, difficulty in breathing, premature birth and infant death. Moreover, mothers who inject the drug and share needles are at a greater risk of contracting HIV and passing it on to the foetus.

Prescription Drugs

Not just alcohol and drugs, but even the abuse of prescription drugs can have a negative effect on the foetus. The most commonly used prescription drugs are sleeping pills, painkillers, stimulants, cold medication, laxatives and anti-anxiety drugs. Abuse of prescription drugs during pregnancy can result in seizures, miscarriage or even premature labour. Like other drugs, children may be born with an addiction and have to suffer from withdrawal symptoms. Even over-the-counter vitamins can be harmful during pregnancy. It is best to consult your doctor and avoid any unnecessary medication.

Alcohol and Pregnancy

Alcohol during pregnancy is a strict no. Even wine and beer or anything that you consider light must be strictly avoided. No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy as it gets into your blood and goes to the foetus through the placenta. While the mother can metabolise the alcohol, it remains in the child's blood for a long time hampering development. The most infamous effect is the Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) a condition caused due to excessive consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. It leads to serious physical, mental and behavioural problems in the child. Children affected by FAS have unusual physical features such as small eye opening, thin upper lip, small jaw, sunken nasal bridge and other joint and limb abnormalities. Let's take a look at some more problems that the child could face:
  • Low Birth Weight
  • Dysfunctional Organs
  • Learning Disorders
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Sleep Disorder
  • Microcephaly
  • Myopia
  • Hyperactivity

The above mentioned effects are not temporary, they last a lifetime, which can lead to a lot of emotional and physical pain. It also means huge medical bills it's a big price to pay for a few drinks during pregnancy.

As you may have understood by now, there are way too many risks involved if you drink and do drugs during pregnancy. It's simple if you want a healthy child, do away with your bad habits.


user profile image
17-02-2018 11:51 AM

Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy should not be done. As it will further lead to birth defects in children.

user profile image
03-06-2017 01:25 AM

This fact is still unknown for many. It should be promoted in a large manner saving the birth childs.

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