Describe the impact that alcohol and drug abuse will likely have on a child when a pregnant woman abuses these substances.
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When a pregnant woman abuses (uses) drugs or alcohol during her pregnancy, the alcohol and drugs pass through the placenta directly to the fetus. In essence, the fetus receives a direct effect from the alcohol and drugs. Some studies indicate that the accumulation in the fetus is ten times higher than that in the mother. The post-birth affects of this profound exposure range from skeletal changes to facial changes to motor skill and musculature changes to cognitive changes and cerebral development changes.
This was quite an interesting subject of discussion in my Human Development class long ago at Furman University. I remember my professor telling us her story with tears in her eyes. Yes, hers was a story of such minor "abuse" in regards to alcohol, but one that put into perspective for all of us what even a tiny bit of alcohol can to do an impressionable fetus.
She told us about how she had no idea she was pregnant. She went to a party and drank enough to get herself tipsy. That was about it. As soon as she found out she was pregnant, she knew that that one night of drinking came at a very critical time period for the baby growing inside of her. She worried all through the pregnancy. She always blamed herself for her son being diagnosed with the most severe form of ADHD (as it was called back then).
At the time, I took the advice to heart. I did all through both of my pregnancies as well. However, one has to admit that what my professor did was not necessarily "alcohol abuse" as you mention in your question. It indicates, however, how much more severe problems can be for children born in the context of that condition! Further, with more years under my belt now, I think about how much my professor's worry all throughout pregnancy may have contributed as much in harming the baby as the alcohol.
One cannot say enough about peace in regards to a pregnant woman's mind.
Personally speaking, I know at least two couples who have bravely adopted children whose mothers drank and took drugs during their pregnancy. The children have a variety of special needs as a result, and have less life chances in terms of their intellectual development and social development. Although scientific studies have not quantified the precise impact of drugs and drink on pregnant women and their children, it is clear the impact is incredibly negative.
As a teacher, I see the effects of drug and alcohol use during pregnancy all of the time. Imagine a young, developing brain being soaked in alochol or chemicals from drugs. It doesn't take a doctor to know the results won't be good. However the drug and alcohol use is symptomatic of a larger problem, and that is that the mother knows she shouldn't be using them, knows they will damage her unborn child, and still takes them.
This is a difficult question, because the research is not conclusive. However, it is widely agreed that the drinking of alcohol during pregnancy puts the baby at risk on many levels. Here are the most common:
1. With drinking babies are can develop Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which can then lead to numerous problems. Some side effects can be: blunted response to pain, mental retardation, malformations of the skeletal system and other organs (brain included), growth problems, and central nervous system problems.
2. These above problems can effect the baby later on in life. Here are some examples: poor motor skills, learning disabilities, and memory problems.
Finally, it should be stated it is not known how much a person must drink for these problems to happen or even if they will happen. At risk is the operative word.
There is a range of possible developmental problems that may occur when a woman uses alcohol and drugs during pregnancy, including but not limited to, problems with growth, muscle tone, coordination, thinking, speech, movement, social skills, heart problems, and problems with the development of the structure of the face. Although scientists have not identified a "safe" amount of alcohol to ingest during a pregnancy with no side effects, it appears that binge drinking, particularly earlier in pregnancy, presents the greatest risk. Babies born to mothers who have abused drugs and/or alcohol during pregnancy stand a greater chance of experiencing withdrawal symptoms after birth, as well as developing learning disabilities and behavioral problems as they get older.