We’ve all been taught that alcohol, tobacco and drugs are bad for our bodies in general. Harsh chemicals will stunt your growth and cause future health issues such as lung cancers, liver problems, etc. We’ve also been taught that mothers-to-be should stay clear of drinking, smoking and taking recreational drugs because of the harm that will come to herself and her baby.
The spoken and unspoken rules of pregnancies might overwhelm you and, unfortunately, you might feel an extra level of stress when your pregnancy was unplanned. Don’t fret – we are right here by your side. Your adoption experts at Adoption Choices of New York will walk beside you on this journey of an unplanned pregnancy. The information below is not tailored to all pregnancies. It is only an overview of alcohol, tobacco and drugs during unplanned pregnancies. We recommend that you consult with your doctor in order to know what you should stay away from.
What’s Wrong With Alcohol, Tobacco and Drug During Unplanned Pregnancies?
Prospective mothers are bombarded with horror stories about what happens if they consume alcohol, tobacco, and drugs during pregnancy. Sadly, those tales are true. Whether your pregnancy is planned or not, taking hazardous substances will do great harm to your body, health and, most importantly, your baby’s development. Consumption of hazardous chemicals during pregnancies can lead to:
- Birth defects
- Premature birth
- Stillbirth (When the baby is lost before or during the delivery. Miscarriage and stillbirth are classified as pregnancy loss, but it depends on when the baby was lost.)
Minor usage of substances can still lead to irreversible consequences. Anything and everything that you consume (i.e. nutrients for you and your baby, water, and toxic chemicals) will be transferred from your body to the fetus via the bloodstream. So, it’s extremely crucial that you are selective about what you put into your body.
To a regular body, drinking too much alcohol can lead to small health issues — fatigue, dehydration, etc. — all the way up to permanent concerns such as liver failure, cancer and brain shrinking. For pregnant women, drinking any amount of alcohol — beer, wine, etc. — will negatively affect yours and your baby’s health in the future.
One major consequence is the increased risk of your baby being born with birth defects. A common type of birth defect caused by use of alcohol during pregnancy is called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which can delay your child’s overall growth, and cause brain damage and developmental issues.
There is no evidence that consuming a small amount on sparse occasions is safe for your baby and will prevent the development of any health issues during pregnancy. No drinks are safer for the bodies than others. While there might be data showing that limited alcohol consumption won’t drastically harm the body, it is best to stay away from all alcoholic drinks completely for your whole pregnancy.
If you’ve already consumed some alcohol while pregnant, don’t fret. It’s common for women to have had some alcohol before they realize they are pregnant. The best thing you can do is choose from today forward to have an alcohol-free pregnancy.
Smoking during pregnancy is likely to increase your chances of miscarriage or premature birth. When your baby is born prematurely, he or she will be underweight and, thus, will need a lot more attention and care in order to get them back on track for regular and healthy growth. This task might be hard to carry out if you have had long exposure to smoking or secondhand smoking, because less oxygen has been delivered to you and your baby. Lack of air can lead to brain and lung damage that will stunt their natural ability to develop.
One possible serious consequence of smoking during and/or after pregnancy is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This is when infants under one year of age suddenly die without any explanation or identifiable cause. Avoid smoking or being near cigarettes or other nicotine-related products such as e-cigarettes, vapes or juuls, because they will lead to the same health concerns. There is absolutely no safe amount of smoking that will not affect the health of your baby or yourself.
Unlike alcohol and tobacco, drugs fall in a gray area of hazardous substances. Drugs does not just mean illegal materials like cocaine, heroin or LSD. They can also include prescription or nonprescription medicines. While some nonprescription medicines are harmless, others may contain ingredients that are dangerous for your baby, like caffeine. Too much caffeine in your system can cause you to have a stillbirth or even a miscarriage. We advise you to check with your doctor about any medicine you’re taking or planning on taking. Here are some nonprescription medicine you should ask your healthcare provider about:
- Common cold or pain relief
- Sleeping aids
- Cough syrup or drops
With illegal drugs, consequences can be as severe as with drinking and smoking. If you have a history of heavy drug usage, a major side effect is a possibility that your baby will grow up with drug addiction. After they are born, they will suffer from withdrawals. If you continue to use drugs after birth, you might suffer from strokes, seizures or even heart attacks. Stop using illegal substances as soon as you know you are pregnant. If you need help gaining access to substance abuse services while pregnant, we can help you with that.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle for You and Your Baby
Along with avoiding dangerous activities and consumption, you will also need to have a game plan for your unplanned pregnancy in order to stay healthy. Check out our blog on What to Eat When You’re Expecting and How to Exercise When You’re Expecting to get more information on how to stay on track for a smooth birth.
Once again, the information above relating to alcohol, tobacco and drugs during unplanned pregnancies is not tailored to everyone. Talk with your primary healthcare provider to get the most accurate information for your specific pregnancy. Remember that you need to do this not only to keep your baby healthy and safe, but also for yourself!
Adoption Choices of New York
For more information on adoption or if you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of New York.
About the Author
Lisa Truong is an undergraduate journalism major at the University of Denver. She is minoring in writing and Chemistry. She has been commended by professors for her news stories as well as creative writing.
During her freshman year, her essay “See Ya on the Other Side” was displayed at a writing exhibition sponsored by the University of Denver. That essay later went on to be published in Many Voices One DU, a book also sponsored by the university.
Lisa frequently volunteers to be a leader at the Daniels School of Business for their quarterly Ethics Boot Camp where students learn about the importance of character in business. In her free time, Lisa enjoys watching animated movies with her mother, listening to music, going for bike rides, and eating breakfast food.
Staff, Familydoctor.org Editorial. “Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drugs During Pregnancy.” familydoctor.org, March 6, 2018. https://familydoctor.org/tobacco-alcohol-drugs-pregnancy/.
“Summit Medical Group Web Site.” Summit Medical Group. Accessed February 7, 2020. https://www.summitmedicalgroup.com/library/adult_health/obg_drug_alcohol_and_tobacco_use_during_pregnancy/.
“What Is Stillbirth?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 29, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/stillbirth/facts.html.