Substance Abuse and Pregnancy

Essay by Roderic976University, Master'sA+, November 2004

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Any substance which flows through a pregnant woman's blood stream; whether it be positive or negative, debilitating or helpful, will pass through placental walls to the developing child she carries. If one considers how negatively toxic substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, and cocaine affect the physical and mental state of a fully developed and healthy adult, it is possible to understand how devastating the effects these same substances have on a child in utero and throughout the course of their development. Examining prevalence rates and current research in the area of how exposure to the aforementioned substances affects children's physical, developmental, cognitive and social growth can reveal a clear picture of the nature of this phenomenon. Taking into account the numerous myths surrounding substance abuse in general, but especially in regards to pregnancy, closer study of the effects cigarettes, alcohol, and cocaine enact upon the developing fetus is warranted.

Pregnancy can be a difficult time without the added burden of substance use or addiction.

A mother-to-be finds herself responsible not only for her personal health, but that of another developing person. To that end most pregnant women attend regularly scheduled doctor visits, take vitamin supplements and join some form of exercise or Lamaze class to make the pregnancy easier. The most critical stage of pregnancy is the first trimester when the zygote becomes an embryo upon attaching to the uterine walls and the embryo develops into the shape and likeness of a human being. Although only 1-3 inches in length, the embryo already has developed internal organs such as a heart, liver, and stomach, all of which begin to respond and function on their own during the first trimester. Facial features, appendages, muscles, and sex organs have formed and continue to take on more concrete shape. During the course of...