Drug Babies and the Effects of Drug Abuse During Pregnancy

Expecting mothers have a lot on their minds when it comes to the health of their babies. Diet, stress level, and general health all affect an unborn baby in its mother’s womb, but which drugs a mother chooses to put into her body, if any, can potentially have an enormous impact on the long term health of the child. Many parents have questions about drugs. Which are safe? Which can be harmful to the child? What are the possible effects of medication a mother might need to take? When these questions arise, the most important thing an expecting mother can do for her baby’s health is to educate herself and take informed action.


Two studies have shown that Ibuprofen use is associated with an increase chance of miscarriage, but other studies did not find that link. However, it is accepted that usage of Ibuprofen in the third trimester can have adverse effects on the child.

Physical Effects: Usage of the drug in the third trimester can lead to premature closure of the arteriosus, a valve in the fetal heart, or may inhibit labor. If the mother must take Ibuprofen during pregnancy, she should take the lowest possible dosage, and have her doctor closely monitor the baby’s heart rate and fluid volume.

Brain/Learning Effects: None

Psychological Effects: None

Addiction Issues: None

Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Tylenol is the pain reliever of choice for most pregnant women. It has no known effects on the development of infants still in the womb, though it should not be taken above the recommended dosage, or by women with liver complications.

Physical Effects None

Brain/Learning Effects: None

Psychological Effects: None

Addiction Issues: None


The original “wonder drug,” Aspirin has been associated with a number of birth defects and pregnancy complications, and should not be taken during pregnancy unless the mother has been prescribed Aspirin for a specific condition, such as heart disease.

Physical Effects: Taken during the early days of the pregnancy, Aspirin has bee associated with miscarriage. Adult-sized doses of Aspirin taken in the second and third trimester have been known to cause delayed labor. Aspirin use has also been associated with bleeding complications during pregnancy and heart and lung problems in the child.

Brain/Learning Effects: Aspirin has not been reported to affect the brain or development of children.

Psychological Effects: None

Addiction Issues: None

Resources: http://www.babycenter.com/404_is-it-safe-to-take-aspirin-during-pregnancy_1357403.bc


These anxiety-relieving drugs include Valium® , Xanax®, Klonopin® and Ativan®, and should be avoided during pregnancy if possible.

Physical Effects: Studies have not associated usage of these drugs with physical birth defects.

Brain/Learning Effects: Normal usage does not appear to correlate to any long term developmental problems, but exceeding the recommended dosage is not recommended.

Psychological Effects: Taking these drugs close to the time of delivery can cause jitteriness, irritability and sleep disturbances in infants.

Addiction Issues: Babies who are exposed to Benzodiazepines close to the time of delivery have exhibited withdrawal symptoms including abnormal body temperature, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, irritability, crying, sleep disturbances, tremors, and jitteriness.


Marketed as Accutane®, Amnesteem®, Claravis®, ad Sotret®, isotretinoin is a man-man made form of Vitamin A used to treat severe acne. It has been found to contribute to a number of serious birth defects. Risk of early pregnancy or miscarriage could be up to 40%.

Physical Effects: Up to 35% of babies whose mothers use isotrentinoin during pregnancy experience some form of physical birth defect, including small or absent ears, hearing and eyesight problems. Fewer will have a small jaw, small head, or cleft palate and some will be born with a small or missing thymus gland. Almost half risk threatening heart defects and/or fluid in the brain.

Brain/Learning Effects: The risk of fluid developing in the infant’s brain is almost 50%, and almost 40% will have difficulty hearing or seeing. Some experience severe retardation and developmental delay.

Psychological Effects: None, on the infant, but some cases depression and/or psychosis in adults have been linked with isotretinoin, which in turn can affect a child reared by the adult.

Addiction Issues: None





The dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy are well documented. The drug causes numerous birth defects and the condition fetal alcohol syndrome. It should be noted that many over the counter drugs, like Nyquil®, contain alcohol as an ingredient, and should be avoided during pregnancy for this reason.

Physical Effects: Physical deformities of FAS include facial deformities, such as widely-spaced eyes, overgrown eyelids, thin upper lip, small distance between the upper lip and nose, and a flattened, or spread-out, nose.

Brain/Learning Effects: The brain is impacted by FAS as well, and babies born with it exhibit abnormal brain development, leading to impairment of intellectual and motor (movement) abilities.

Psychological Effects: Due to developmental problems in the brain, children with FAS may have difficulty keeping up with classmates, and may not wish to attend school, a serious detriment to their long term social and psychological development.

Addiction Issues: None

Resources: http://knol.google.com/k/fas-fetal-alcohol-syndrome-and-its-victims#


There is no safe amount of cocaine that may be taken during pregnancy, as some amount will enter the infant’s body and remain there for 2-7 days, potentially causing severe defects.

Physical Effects: Defects reported with cocaine use include abnormality in the infant’s skull, face, eyes, heart, limbs, intestines, genitals, and urinary tract. Babies tend to weigh less at birth and be shorter in length, making them more likely to die in their first month. They are also more likely to have serious chronic health problems, such as difficulty breathing.

Brain/Learning Effects: The brain and central nervous system can be significantly impacted by maternal cocaine use. These could lead to changes in behavior language difficulties and delayed learning later in life.

Psychological Effects: Infants exposed to cocaine are found to be more irritable, jittery, and to have interrupted sleep patterns, visual disturbances, and problems with sensory stimulation.

Addiction Issues: Infants exposed to cocaine near birth often exhibit withdrawal symptoms, including increased irritability, tremulousness, muscular rigidity, poor sucking ability that hampers feeding, sleeplessness, and hyperactivity or, in some cases, tiredness. Less common but more serious withdrawal symptoms have been noted, among them vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures.


While not known to cause significant birth defects, it is known that THC does cross the placenta and enter the body of the child.

Physical Effects: The primary physical dangers of marijuana usage during pregnancy are the same as cigarette use: a link to miscarriage or low birth weight.

Brain/Learning Effects: Some mental development issues have been reportedly linked with marijuana usage during pregnancy (see Psychological Effects below).

Psychological Effects: Behavior issues include problems with attention, impulsive behavior, and academic performance have been reported.

Addiction Issues: If the mother uses marijuana in the third trimester of her pregnancy, the baby could experience withdrawal symptoms such as increased tremors and crying.


Drugs in this category are often prescribed by physicians to treat specific problems, and small doses can be weighed against the possible risk they pose to mothers and their infants. However, high (illegal) doses of Methamphetamine should never be taken during pregnancy under any circumstances, and even small, prescribed doses should be avoided if possible.

Physical Effects: Methamphetamine usage is strongly associated with miscarriage, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome.

Brain/Learning Effects: Infants whose mothers used Methamphetamines during pregnancy are at risk for life-long breathing, hearing, vision, and learning problems.

Psychological Effects: Some studies show that children whose mothers used methamphetamines exhibit trouble in school, and more behavior problems.

Addiction Issues: Babies often exhibit serious withdrawal symptoms if their mothers used methamphetamines during the third trimester. These symptoms include trouble eating, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, being very floppy or very tight, and being very jittery. Sometimes babies experience tremors or lack of muscle tone for many months after birth.

Learn More: http://www.otispregnancy.org/otis-fact-sheets-s13037#5



Smoking and tobacco use in general should be avoided during all trimesters of pregnancy, though mothers may find it easiest to quit during the first trimester.

Physical Effects: Cigarette use can cause premature and underweight births, and increases the chance for a miscarriage or stillborn birth significantly. It is also linked with Placenta previa (a low-lying placenta that covers part or all of the opening of the uterus) and placental abruption (in which the placenta peels away, partially or almost completely, from the uterine wall before delivery). Tobacco use can also contribute to sudden infant death syndrome.

Brain/Learning Effects: None

Psychological Effects: None

Addiction Issues: Babies of mothers who smoke do appear to experience withdrawal symptoms, and are more jittery and difficult to soothe.

Resources: Here

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