Drug Abuse Effects on an Unborn Fetus


The early stages of pregnancy are the most crucial to fetal development. Drug abuse by a pregnant woman can have devastating effects on the health of the unborn foetus. Further complications will emerge as the pregnancy progresses if drug use continues.

Just as nourishment enters the placenta, drugs and other toxins enter as well, which can put the foetus at risk.


Drug abuse is not limited to street drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana. Alcohol and nicotine can also cause severe complications to the development and mortality of the unborn foetus. Prescriptions and over-the-counter medications that have not been proven safe during pregnancy should also be avoided.


Research shows that different classifications of drugs affect the unborn foetus in varying ways. Although marijuana can greatly affect the growth rate and nervous system of the developing foetus, methamphetamine pose a greater risk to the development of vital organs, the brain and the spinal cord. These drugs also prove detrimental to the formation of the skeleton and appendages. Heroin is known to affect the development of the foetus' lungs, growth rate and brain development. Cocaine can complicate fetal development, which can cause prenatal strokes that may result in the death of the foetus.


The abuse of legal drugs also poses threats to the unborn foetus. In fact, alcohol abuse during pregnancy can result in catastrophic threats to the development of the foetus' brain and physical growth. Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) can result in the abnormal development of the facial structure and the overall size of the head and body. It is also important to mention that alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been linked to mental retardation and other developmental delays.


Smoking while pregnant poses serious risks to the foetus. Research has proven that nicotine and tobacco from cigarettes can greatly affect fetal growth and birth weight, and can even result in fetal death.


There is no safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed during pregnancy. The belief that an occasional glass of wine poses no health risks to the unborn foetus is completely unsubstantiated. To date, there is no documented proof that damage to the unborn foetus varies according to the mother's alcohol intake over the duration of her pregnancy. Therefore, it is highly recommended that pregnant women refrain from all alcohol consumption.

The Facts

Substance abuse during pregnancy also carries the threat of infectious disease. Pregnant women engaging in intravenous drug use risk contracting HIV/AIDS, which can potentially be passed on to the unborn foetus.