We chatted recently to Lindsay B. of Scotswood sober house in Cape Town about the effects of drug and alcohol use by expectant mothers during their pregnancy. It goes without saying that the best possible thing a pregnant woman can do is look after her own health as best she can in order to provide the most healthy environment for a developing fetus. A healthy lifestyle and diet can only promote a better environment for the unborn baby being carried by the pregnant mom to be. Smoking cigarettes and excessive alcohol consumption are not at all good for the embryo’s development and can often lead to risks and abnormalities with the embryo’s development. The are some doctors and gynecologists who will reassure their patients that a glass of wine here or there or on occasion will not do the baby any harm. This might well be true, but unless it’s really necessary, it is best avoided. Expectant mothers who are smokers should definitely quit whilst they are pregnant, there are well researched statistics that show the negative effects of smoking on fetal development and in most countries it is compulsory for cigarette manufacturers to include these warnings on their packaging. If the mother intends to breastfeed her child then she should continue to abstain from cigarette smoking whilst breastfeeding as this too has negative consequences for the newborn baby. Lindsay is not an expert on pregnancy or fetal development but was bale to give us some insights into the extreme side of the scale, where expectant mothers have abused drugs and alcohol during their pregnancy to the severe detriment of their unborn child. Lindsay is a recovering addict herself and and now works at the Scotswood sober living house in Cape town.
Lindsay explained to us her first hand experience with pregnant mothers that she used to associate with whilst she was in active addiction. Unfortunately addicts or alcoholics are extremely self centered and for the most part enslaved to their substance of choice. Pregnant women using heroin, cocaine, smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol excessively is not at all uncommon. Those who suffer from addiction will continue repeating the same harmful behaviour over and over again with regard for whom they harm or the negative consequences that may result from their behaviour. In the case of an unborn child, a mother that is alcoholic or suffers from drug addiction can be something that will affect them for the rest of their lives. In extreme cases there are babies that are literally born as drug addicts already. From enduring their mothers’ addiction whilst in the womb, they are continuously exposed to the drug that their mother is abusing. These babies are born as addicts to heroin or cocaine or any other drug that the mother may have been using whilst carrying the baby to term. Once born, the baby can go into withdrawal or cold turkey due to the sudden lack of availability to the drug. Already unhealthy and weak, the shock of withdrawal can be life threatening and in some cases lead to premature death.
An expectant mom carries a huge responsibility for bringing a new life into this world in the best and safest way she possibly can. If you are a smoker please quit whilst pregnant and whilst breastfeeding. If you are someone who enjoys drinking alcohol regularly, please consider the effects this will have on your unborn child and do your best to reduce your drinking to a minimum. If you are pregnant and are reliant on or abuse drugs, please look for help, for your own sake and for the sake of your unborn child.