The Effects of Alcohol, Cigarettes and Drug use During Pregnancy Essay

71306915 The Effects of Alcohol, Cigarettes and Drug use During Pregnancy

0.1       Introduction

Over the years, the effects of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs during pregnancy have been confirmed via empirical research. It is not a myth. These substances have negative effects on both the mother and her unborn child. The use of these dangerous substances is discouraged during pregnancy because it can lead to a number of problems and complications such as: premature delivery, still birth, miscarriage, low weight at birth, mental retardation and dependence of children on these substances.

0.2       Effects of alcohol, cigarettes and drug use during pregnancy


Alcohol harms the fetus in the womb. Pregnant women who drink alcohol may give birth premature, produce children with congenital malformations or low weight at birth, Yamamoto et al (173-182) and Parazzini et al (1345-1349). Apart from the aforementioned effects, infants who are born to women who drink heavily during pregnancy are likely to have physical malformations such as an abnormally small head, defects in the heart and mental retardation. During pregnancy, there are no safe levels of alcohol intake. It is helpful for the pregnant mother to abstain from alcohol totally.


When a pregnant woman smokes cigarettes, the unborn child is likely to be born of a smaller size than children of mothers who do not smoke. According to Shu et al (115-120) cigarette smoking among pregnant women causes a host of other health problems such as: an increased risk of miscarriage; premature and still births; and infant mortality soon after birth. Research has shown that there is a relationship between smoking during pregnancy and the impaired infants. These children end up either physically or mentally impaired. At this point, very little can be done to reverse the situation, because the damage had already been done during pregnancy.


There are a number of drugs which are dangerous when used by pregnant women. In this section, the effects of marijuana and cocaine on pregnant women are examined. Generally, the use of marijuana is associated with pulmonary cancer, memory loss and irregularities during menstruation Hjerkinn, Lindbæk and Rosvold (322). In pregnant women the active ingredient passes through the pregnant mother and accumulates in the fetus. This situation results in: precipitation of labor; low birth weight; premature birth; and fetal distress. Pregnant women who smoke marijuana regularly are likely to induce labor and expel the fetus no matter the stage of pregnancy. On the other hand cocaine constricts the blood vessels and limits the amount of blood which reaches the fetus. Furthermore, cocaine causes an increase in the secretion of stress hormones and makes the uterus contact very easily which increases the risk of spontaneous abortion. Women who are addicted to cocaine may pass this to the infants they give birth to.  It is important to note that cocaine and marijuana are not the only drugs which affect pregnant women and their babies. There are a number of other drugs to which pregnant woman may be addicted to and can cause harm to both the mother and child. However, for the purpose of this paper only these two drugs have been discussed.

0.3       Conclusion

Pregnancy is a time when women should be careful about drugs and other substances which they take in. A lot is yet to be known about the effect of many substances on the unborn child. Thus a lot of caution should be taken. However, for now, cigarettes, drugs and alcohol are bad for pregnant women because they have very damaging effects on the unborn child and the health of the mother.

Works Cited

Hjerkinn B., Lindbæk M., Rosvold E. O. “Substance abuse in pregnant women. Experiences from a special child welfare clinic in Norway.” BMC Public Health. 2007; 7: 322.

Parazzini F., Chatenoud L., Surace M., Tozzi L., Salerio B., Bettoni G., et al. “Moderate alcohol drinking and risk of preterm birth.” Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003; 57: 1345-1349.

Shu X. O., Hatch M. C., Mills J., Clemens J, Susser M. “Maternal smoking, alcohol drinking, caffeine consumption, and fetal growth: results from a prospective study.” J. Epidemiol. 1995; 6: 115-120.

Yamamoto Y., Kaneita Y., Yokoyama E., Sone T., Takemura S., Suzuki K., et al. “Alcohol Consumption and Abstention among pregnant Japanese Women.”  J. Epidemiol. 2008, 18(4): 173-182.