Congratulations, I see you are expecting your first born child soon! I know with this being your first child, you must be feeling so excited, as well as anxious and overwhelmed with all you must be hearing about the cans and cannots of pregnancy and I know all you want is the best for your child. Therefore, I am suggesting you stay absolutely healthy and avoid using all illicit drugs during your pregnancy! Statistics show that no matter what illicit drug it is you are using, there are negative consequences to your fetus.


Prenatal substance abuse is when a pregnant women abuses illicit drugs at some point during her pregnancy. Women who are to abuse illicit drugs while they are pregnant are more likely to experience negative effects on their fetus during and after their pregnancy rather than a woman who did not abuse them while pregnant. “Although prenatal substance abuse exposure has potentially deleterious and even long-term effects on the exposed children, the full extent of the harm is not fully understood” (Masotti).

The most predominant and common drug that is abused during pregnancy is alcohol. There is no amount of alcohol that is safe to your fetus while you are pregnant, any amount can have harsh lifelong physical and mental abnormalities. Studies show that “1 and 10 pregnant women will drink at some point during their pregnancy and 1 and 33 women have admitted to binge drinking within the last 30 days of their pregnancy” (What Is Prenatal Substance Exposure?). Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the when a pregnant woman abuses alcohol during her pregnancy. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), is “a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that results in permanent disabilities” (Masotti). Abuse of alcohol while pregnant can lead to life threatening physical and mental abnormalities in the child. “Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) or fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is one of the most prevalent and modifiable risk factors for somatic, behavioral, and neurological abnormalities” (Esper). These abnormalities include: facial abnormalities, growth deficiency and central nervous system symptoms, structural abnormalities and altered functions such as motor skills, hyperactivity, and poor social skills.


Another drug commonly used by pregnant women and predominantly our youth now is vaping, or tobacco. Vaping is a battery operated cigarette that turns the nicotine chemicals into vapor. “E-cigarettes produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine—the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products—flavorings, and other chemicals that help to make the aerosol. Users inhale this aerosol into their lungs. Bystanders can also breathe in this aerosol when the user exhales into the air” (“Smoking & Tobacco Use”). This makes vaping and e-cigarettes almost as dangerous as a regular cigarette. Mothers who smoke while pregnant put their child at risk for tissue damage in their brain and lungs. The organs may never get the chance to develop properly and cause life threatening results to the child which could last up until their early to mid 20’s. Mothers who smoke also put their child at an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). “Smokeless tobacco products have been associated with stillbirth, preterm delivery, and infant apnea” (“Using Illegal Drugs During Pregnancy”). However, the FDA has approved forms of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), but should be consulted and monitored by a physician first.


Onto harsher drug like heroin and cocaine, these drugs are also abused while women are pregnant. There are around 750,000 cocaine exposed pregnancies each year. “Cocaine use during pregnancy is associated with maternal migraines and seizures, premature membrane rupture, and separation of the placental lining from the uterus prior to delivery” (Abuse, National Institute on Drug). Scientist are discovering the use of cocaine while you are pregnant can lead to deficits later in lives including mental and behavioral problems. When a mother uses cocaine it enters the fetus. “The elimination of cocaine is slower in a fetus than in an adult. This means that cocaine remains in the baby’s body much longer than it does in your body” (“Using Illegal Drugs During Pregnancy”). Onto the drug heroin, the effects are similar, although unlike cocaine or alcohol, most babies are born addicted to this drug . When a woman uses heroin, the unborn baby becomes addicted to the drug. “The baby faces withdrawal symptoms which are: irritability, convulsions, fever, sleep abnormalities, and joint stiffness” (“Using Illegal Drugs During Pregnancy”). Even if a child is not born addicted to the drug, they still are born with abnormalities which include: “premature birth, low birth weight, breathing difficulties, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), bleeding within the brain (intracranial hemorrhage), and infant death” (“Using Illegal Drugs During Pregnancy”).


The solution I am suggesting to ultimately help mothers who are addicted to illicit drugs while pregnant is education. Treatments for prenatal substance abuse would be more counseling to child and mother. The mother will ultimately understand the detriment of their abuse onto their fetus. Support groups and step by step programs would be offered to pregnant women who need it and are willing to seek the help they provide. Telephone numbers and websites also offer information and help centers that are close to the mother’s location. Throughout different states, there are varying laws that are upheld when it comes to prenatal substance abuse. “Many states have expanded their civil child-welfare requirements to include substance abuse during pregnancy as grounds for terminating parental rights in relation to child abuse and neglect, although Tennessee is the only state that holds prenatal substance abuse as a criminal act of child abuse and neglect” (“Using Illegal Drugs During Pregnancy”). However, the laws do vary in different states all the way from certain required tests to reporting mothers who abuse, which means some laws have penalties that are much more harsh than others.

Prenatal substance abuse has many life threatening negative effects on your child that can range from their birth weight all the way up to nervous system abnormalities. In order to ensure the best possible kick start for your child’s life, women expecting, or trying for a child, should absolutely avoid illicit drug use in order to keep your child from falling into line with one of the statistics.


Annotated Bibliography

Esper, Larissa Horta, and Erikson Felipe Furtado. “Identifying Maternal Risk Factors Associated with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: a Systematic Review.” European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 28 Aug. 2014,     

This site talked about fetal alcohol syndrome and described in detail all the problems children may face if exposed to alcohol. It also gave tables that described all the disabilities related to FAS. This site allowed me to describe the meaning of fetal alcohol syndrome in my first paragraph and a lot of the abnormalities and disabilities children have when exposed to alcohol. This source is reliable because it is off of ebsco and has been peer reviewed.

Masotti, Paul, et al. “Integrating Care for Individuals with FASD: Results from a Multi-Stakeholder Symposium.” BMC Health Services Research, June 2015,

This site talked about different ideas of treatment for fetal alcohol syndrome that families can take and hopefully use. This site also gave more insight into more disabilities associated with FAS. Off this site, I used their ideas of treatment and alternatives for my conclusion of the paper. This site is reliable because it is off of ebsco and has been peer reviewed.        

“What Is Prenatal Substance Exposure? – Definition from the MyAttorneyHome Legal Glossary.”, 2015,

In this article I found the meaning of prenatal substance abuse to use in my introduction, in order to inform people on the topic. From this site I got a clear and concise meaning and an easy way to explain the meaning without making it hard to understand. I believe this is reliable because it gives an accurate description on what prenatal substance abuse is.

“Gateway to Health Communication & Social Marketing Practice.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 Sept. 2017,

This site explained the statistics of women who drink during their pregnancy and elaborated on the statistics. I used this site to show how common it is in women to drink and even binge drink during their pregnancy. I believe this site is reliable because it is from the CDC, who give reliable statistics.

Abuse, National Institute on Drug. “What Are the Effects of Maternal Cocaine Use?” NIDA, 2016,

This site explained a lot of the problems children face after being born from a mother who was on cocaine. It gave statistics and abnormalities children may be born with if exposed to cocaine when born. I used this site to strengthen and further my research on prenatal substance abuse. I believe this site is reliable because it comes from the national institute of drug abuse.

“Using Illegal Drugs During Pregnancy.” American Pregnancy Association, 1 Feb. 2018,

On this site, I found treatment options women can partake in when addicted to drugs during their pregnancy. I used this to build my conclusion and alternatives women can use rather than struggling alone. I also used this site to find more information on abusing different drugs while pregnant. I find this source reliable because it was written for women who are pregnant and gives helpful links to women who are abusing drugs.

“Smoking & Tobacco Use.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 Sept. 2017,

This site helped me define the difference between an e-cig and a regular cigarette. I used this site to help build my argument that e-cigs are just as dangerous as regular tobacco cigarettes. I find this source reliable because it came from the center of disease control and prevention.