The article, "Four percent of pregnant women used illicit drugs in past month", was based on reports on the use of illegal drugs by pregnant women in the month of May 2005 according to a study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration in the United States. It describes the prevalence of substance abuse among pregnant women, reasons behind the higher prevalence of illicit drug use among younger pregnant women, and the association of substance use during pregnancy with mental, physical and psychological problems in infants and children. This article was mostly based on shocking statistics, such as reports showing that "over 18% of pregnant women are smokers and continue to smoke throughout their pregnancy" (Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly, 2005).
Cocaine abuse during pregnancy not only harms the mother, but also may cause problems with the child's gross and fine motor skills. Cocaine also affects a child's attention, alertness, and IQ. "At 3 years, the exposed children scored lower on an intelligence test than did unexposed children, were more restless, had shorter attention spans and less focused attention, and made more attempts to distract the examiner than did children who were not exposed to cocaine before birth" (Zickler, 1999). The affects of prenatal cocaine abuse in children are primarily associated with their attention patterns (Gendle, 2004). Studies using cocaine-exposed animals showed the negative affects of cocaine on attention skills. The cocaine-exposed animals were more easily distracted than the healthy animals, and they also learned slower (Gendle, 2004). Even low doses of cocaine used prenatally proved to cause a significant problem with the ability to endure distractions. Postnatal cocaine abuse is also very dangerous because of the negative and ineffective parenting that can take place because of the mother being under the constant influence of the drug.
Since the statistics are so surprising, it may be a wake-up call for women abusing drugs. Drug use has so many negative effects, as does tobacco and alcohol use. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the leading known cause of mental retardation (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc 2000).
Proper prenatal care is crucial to the child's development because drugs affect both hemispheres in the brain, which concentrate on verbal competencies, recognition of patterns, and many more elements. However, drug abuse during pregnancy affects both the physical and mental development of newborns.
Drugs also affect motor development, which has a direct relationship with reflexes. Reflexes are the unlearned, organized, voluntary responses that occur automatically in the presence of certain stimuli. A baby needs to develop both their gross and fine motor skills, or else they won't be able to crawl, walk, or pick up anything.
By researching this topic, I have learned the consequences for prenatal drug abuse, and also some startling statistics.
Out of all the prenatal drug abusing women, 70% of these women are African American (Roberts, 1991). In addition, Black women are more likely to be denied custody of their children because they are perceived by child-welfare agencies to be "unfit mothers". D.E. Roberts, the author of "Mother as martyr - poor Afro-American women bearing crack-addicted babies need better prenatal care, not prosecution for drug abuse " also acknowledged that since poor African American women are in closer contact with government agencies and give birth in public hospitals, their drug use is more likely to be detected. "They are also more likely to be reported to government authorities because of discriminatory hospital screening practices and the stereotyped assumptions of health-care professionals" (Roberts, 1991).
Four percent of pregnant women used illicit drugs in past month. (2005) Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly, 17, 22.
Mathias, Robert. (1998). Prenatal Exposure to Drugs of Abuse May Affect Later Behavior and Learning. NIDA Notes, 13, 4. Retrieved November 26, 2006, from http://www.drugabuse.gov/NIDA_Notes/NNVol13N4/Prenatal.html.
Prenatal cocaine exposure affects boys more. (2004). Brown University Digest of Addiction Theory & Application, 23, 10.
Roberts, D. E. (May 1991). Mother as martyr - poor Afro-American women bearing crack-addicted babies need better prenatal care, not prosecution for drug abuse. Essence.
Williams, M. (2006). Prenatal Health Risks. Retrieved November 27, 2006, from http://www.wprc.org/preghealth.phtml.