Pregnant Women and Drug Use - Essay Example

Last Updated: 26 June 2019

This paper focuses on pregnant women and drug abuse. The use of drugs during pregnancy either legal or illegal can have a direct and unfavorable effect to the unborn child. It is paramount that pregnant women live a healthy lifestyle by avoiding drugs such as alcohol and tobacco, which are readily available in any contemporary social setting. Complementary medicine also has the potential of causing harm during pregnancy. These drugs may at times be harmful to fetal development, which consequently might result in stillbirths or abnormal growth in children among other side effects (“Using CDC,” 2013). However, the use of drugs to prevent infections during pregnancy is highly recommended. It is necessary there be a change of lifestyle to ensure a reduction in drug consumption. The topic of Pregnant Women and Drug Use is significant given the high mortality rate of children in different parts of thw world.

Using Legal Drugs during Pregnancy

It is very dangerous for pregnant women to avoid using drugs due to various health issues that occasion during pregnancy. This poses a risk to the developing fetus depending on the type of drug taken, amount and the drug intake frequency. Ideally, most pregnant women use complementary and alternative medicine as part of their maternal care. This includes the treatment of conditions such as headaches, backache and labor preparation (Weiner, 2004). However, it is necessary that the practitioners make health background checks on women. Prescription drugs such as the painkillers sleeping pills and tranquilizers also pose a risk to the development of the fetus. If a pregnant woman suffers from chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus, asthma or hypertension it means they will be under constant drug use. Other factors leading to drug use during pregnancy include nausea and vomiting which are complications associated with pregnancy. Paracetamol together with certain types of vaccinations, nicotine replacement therapy, and antibiotics are medicines and treatments safe for use. It is necessary to offer maternal treatment in such conditions as this helps towards recovery. This will consequently allow for the optimal development of the fetus.

Pregnant Women and Drug Use: Cigarette Smoking During Pregnancy

This habit poses a health risk to both the growing fetus and the mother. Normally associated with serious health defects and premature deaths, the habit also contributes to the passing of carcinogenic chemicals to the developing fetus (“Using CDC,” 2013). Due to its addictive nature, many find it difficult to quit hence endangering their lives and that of the unborn child. Exposure to cigarette smoke also increases if those around the pregnant mother happen to be into the behavior. Research has shown that for mothers who smoke in early pregnancy are at risk of delivering babies with congenital heart defects. This condition leads to a high mortality rate with the infants mostly succumbing within the first year. Other heart defects associated with cigarette smoking in early pregnancy include the septal defects occasioned by a hole between the left and right heart chambers. In many instances, sudden infant death syndrome is common in children born of mothers who smoke tobacco. Cigarette smoking during pregnancy also contributes to placental problems. This might result in low birth weight in infants or premature deliveries since the unborn child gets nourishment through the placenta. Thus, it is important to explore the topic of Pregnant Women and Drug Use as a means of understanding and recommending different methods.

Alcohol Drinking During Pregnancy

This behavior is associated with health conditions such as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) (“Using CDC,” 2013). Alcohol consumption by the pregnant woman endangers the life of the fetus especially the first three months as it can contribute towards a miscarriage. There is no amount of alcohol intake by the pregnant woman is safe for the fetus since it affects brain cells. To stay safe, it is recommendable for the pregnant woman to avoid alcohol consumption since the brain is constantly developing through the entire period one is pregnant (Hey, 2007). In the instances of substantial alcohol consumption during pregnancy the fetus develops condition FAS, which manifests itself later in children occasioning facial abnormalities, retarded growth, and behavioral disorders. It is always advisable that women who have a history of alcohol addiction, liver problems to avoid alcohol when pregnant. In addition, if one is under medication, it is necessary to consider the medicine administered does not conflict with alcohol if one has to consume. The risk posed by alcohol consumption increases with the amounts that one takes. Peer pressure to engage in drinking in their respective social settings also plays a role.


Commonly found in drinks such as coffee and sodas, caffeine is one of the legal drugs that can cause adverse effects if taken during pregnancy. This stimulant tends to increase an individual’s heart rate and blood pressure of both the pregnant woman and the unborn infant (“Using CDC,” 2013). Also, present in foods such as chocolates, research has shown that it increases the frequency of urination, which can lead to dehydration as body fluid levels decrease. Regardless of the amounts taken, it has the potential to cause changes in the normal pattern and movement of the unborn child during pregnancy since once consumed it passes through the placenta to the fetus. This poses a great risk since fetal metabolism is still immature for complete metabolism (Klee, 2002). Excessive consumption of caffeine during pregnancy can lead to preterm delivery, reduced fertility and in other cases premature labor.

Illegal Drugs

This refers to drugs that various governments have placed the control on its use and possession through laws. Each drug tends to affect an individual in its own unique way even when classified under the same category.

Pregnant Women and Drug Use: Use of Cocaine during Pregnancy

Mainly classified as a stimulant, cocaine tends to be highly addictive with a tendency to increase the user’s energy and alertness (“Using APA,” 2011). When a pregnant woman consumes cocaine by ingesting orally or through injections, it directly enters into the fetus blood circulation through the placenta. During the early months of pregnancy, the use of cocaine increases the risk of miscarrying while in later stages, it can result in placental abruption. Severe bleeding and preterm birth are some of the problems occasioned by the abruption of the placenta. There is also a high chance of miscarriage in pregnant women who use cocaine. Prevalent defects as seen in babies from parents who abuse cocaine include slowed growth rate and small heads. Withdrawal symptoms such as muscle sperms, tremors, and sleeplessness are also common (Koren, 2007).

Pregnant Women and Drug Use: Use of Marijuana

Users have many different ways of consuming the drug where some smoke it in hand-rolled cigarettes, brew it as tea or by mixing it in their food. Once consumed, it crosses through the placenta to the fetus. The toxins contained in marijuana cause a reduction in the levels of oxygen in the blood. Moreover, when smoked it increases the levels of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the blood reducing the supply of oxygenated blood to the fetus (“Using APA,” 2011). This affects fetal development that can result in low birth weight, miscarriage, premature births or retarded growth. To reduce the chances, it is necessary to quit the habit once there is confirmation of the pregnancy.

Use of Heroin

Processed from morphine, which is extracted from the opium poppy, is a highly addictive drug and very potent. The drug often injected into the bloodstream whilst other users smoke, sniff or snort it (“Using APA,” 2011). However, injection of the drug poses a higher risk as users tend to share needles that expose them to HIV infection. Since it is an opiate, heroin depresses the central nervous system leaving the user in a drowsy state for hours. The drug reaches the fetus through the placenta, and due to its highly addictive nature results in infant addiction causing them to show withdrawal symptoms. For those addicted to the drug and become pregnant, methadone use assists them to quit the habit.

Use of Methamphetamine

This drug is highly addictive and a central nervous system stimulant. Chemically related to amphetamine, methamphetamine causes an increase in the heart rate of both the mother and the fetus (“Using APA,” 2011). Eliciting effects such as those witnessed in pregnant women using cocaine with more effects such as staying awake for days. It tends to increase the probability of miscarriage, premature labor and placental abruption. Due to the reduced oxygen concentration in the blood, it can result in poor fetal development.


In sum, in regards to pregnant women and drug use, there should be culturally binding strategies to ensure that pregnant women are able to stay free from drugs. This is because the society lays expectations on individuals that might at times cause them to abuse drugs. To accomplish this, it is necessary to ensure community participation in the planning and implementation of the strategies. In addition, it is necessary to ensure that adequate resources are availed to pregnant women to help them reduce drugs intake. To complement these intervention methods, it is necessary to employ a holistic approach when dealing with users of various drugs. This helps them to regain control over their health status.


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Hey, E. (2007). Neonatal formulary 5 drug use in pregnancy and the first year of life (5th ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.
Klee, H., Jackson, M., & Lewis, S. (2002). Drug misuse and motherhood. London: Routledge.
Koren, G. (2007). Medication safety in pregnancy and breastfeeding. New York: McGraw-Hill, Health Professions Division.
Weiner, C. P., & Buhimschi, C. (2004). Drugs for pregnant and lactating women. New York: Churchill Livingstone.