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What happens if a woman uses cocaine or methamphetamine during pregnancy?

While these drugs are never good, they are even worse during pregnancy. Cocaine usage is associated with maternal heart and lung problems including hypertension, heart rhythm disorders, and neurological problems such as stroke, headache, and impaired thinking. Cocaine usage produces a number of psychological disorders of anxiety, depression and even psychosis (paranoid and disordered reality). The mother is more likely to be in risky dangerous relationships given her impaired thinking. Her decision making is impulsive, and her ability to learn and remember decreases. The risks of IV drug use and of sexually risky behaviors increase, along with the associated illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis. Spontaneous abortion or miscarriage, placental abruption, and fetal defects may occur. The baby may have low birth weight, come early, and have seizures due to the cocaine exposure. As the fetus has imperfect ability to processing/remove the cocaine, it accumulates in higher concentrations in the fetus or newborn. The psychosocial risk factors of dangerous relationships, funds used to purchase drugs rather than food, and poor emotional health are risky for the mother and the baby.

Methamphetamine is another exceedingly bad drug, at low cost and high availability. Methamphetamine destroys the transporters for dopamine in the brain, causing immediate and long term damage, for up to two years after abstinence. Many of the effects produced by cocaine are shared by methamphetamine as they are both stimulants. Vaccinations against both of these drugs are in research phases. As it takes very small molecules to get across the protective blood brain barrier, these would work by notifying the body to put large clumps of antibodies onto the drugs, thereby preventing them from entering the brain and causing the characteristic high. Learn more by watching the WYNK flash videos about pregnancy as well as those on the stimulants.

by: Lois Cochrane Schlutter, Ph.D. L.P.

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