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Cocaine Use During Pregnancy – Effects, Risks, And Treatment

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Cocaine is a stimulant that directly affects the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain and spinal column. The way that cocaine affects a fully developed CNS has been studied, and long term side effects have been determined.

A woman abusing cocaine during pregnancy may or may not realize that the cocaine that they are taking is going to directly to their developing fetus. This can result in a number of risks, such as miscarriage, learning disabilities, or physical deformaties.

Regardless of the stage of pregnancy, first trimester, second trimester, or even the third trimester, cocaine use can result in numerous side effects, many of them long-term or permanent.

Is It Harmful To Use Cocaine During Pregnancy?

Using cocaine during pregnancy is extremely harmful to women and fetuses. Due to the significant risk factors associated with cocaine use and pregnancy, it is strongly discouraged.

A pregnant woman using cocaine places herself at risk for premature birth, and several other complications that may arise due to lack of appropriate medical care during her pregnancy.

In addition to premature birth, once the baby is born, there are risks associated with learning disabilities, language development, behavioral issues, and heart defects.

Using cocaine during pregnancy is dangerous and can result in a number of unwanted long-term health problems.

Effects Of Cocaine On Pregnant Women

Abusing cocaine while pregnant can result in cardiovascular, respiratory and psychiatric problems. Some of the more specific health risks connected to cocaine use and pregnancy include:

  • malnutrition
  • premature birth
  • miscarriage (especially if cocaine use occurs in the first trimester)
  • migraines
  • high blood pressure
  • seizures
  • cardiac arrhythmia or tachycardia

Cocaine use during pregnancy has been linked to poor prenatal care, preterm birth, and multiple pregnancies over time.

Delivery complications often occur with women who use cocaine during pregnancy. Regular cocaine use during pregnancy can result in placental abruption, the detachment of the placenta from the uterine wall.

Stillbirths occur 2.2 times more often in women who use cocaine.

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Cocaine And Effects On Pregnancy

There are specific problems that can occur during pregnancy when the woman uses cocaine. Cocaine use can result in any of the following:

  • preeclampsia
  • placental infarction (blood flow to the placenta is interrupted)
  • placental abruption
  • fetal growth impaired
  • ectopic pregnancy
  • premature rupturing of membranes

Cocaine Effects On Fetus

Cocaine is a stimulant of the CNS, which plays a leading role in fetal development. Introducing drugs to the CNS system results in a significant number of health risks to both mother and fetus. Some of these risks include:

  • spontaneous abortion
  • meconium being passed into amniotic fluid and into the lungs of the fetus
  • Microcephaly – abnormally small head
  • structural and congenital abnormalities of gastrointestinal and renal systems
  • internal organ systems being stunted
  • neurodevelopmental delays
  • fetal death
  • stillbirth

Cocaine use during pregnancy decreases blood flow within the uterus and decreased oxygen levels to the fetus. Fetal heart rate and blood pressure are higher than normal with women who use cocaine while pregnant.

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Effects Of Cocaine Use During Pregnancy On Children

While some of the physical effects can be recognized in utero, many of the side effects are only noticeable after birth.

Some of the effects of cocaine in utero have the following long-term consequences:

  • cleft palate
  • low birth weight
  • limb defects
  • congenital heart disease
  • disruption of nervous system function
  • learning disabilities
  • behavioral problems
  • impaired memory
  • language development problems

Infants of women who used cocaine while pregnant are at a higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The long term side effects for the children of women who used cocaine while pregnant are permanent and avoidable.

Cocaine Use And Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a term used to describe the symptoms linked to an infant who is born addicted to a drug the mother has been using during pregnancy. Infants born addicted to cocaine will experience withdrawal symptoms shortly after birth.

A baby born addicted to cocaine is likely to have difficulty sleeping and eating, be extremely irritable, and experience tremors, uncontrollable crying and muscle spasms.

Babies born addicted to crack cocaine or cocaine have been called cocaine baby or crack baby.

Breastfeeding And Cocaine Use

Cocaine has been found in the breast milk of mothers using cocaine. Any cocaine that a breastfeeding mother ingests can end up in their infant. Cocaine in any amount is extremely dangerous to a baby.

Breast milk continues to test positive for cocaine long after it has been expelled in urine. This is an indication that breast milk must be expelled and not used as nutrients to an infant.

Cocaine intoxication in infants can lead to seizures, racing heart, irritability, becoming inconsolable, and hyperventilation.

Treating Cocaine Addiction In Pregnant Women

Women addicted to drugs, like cocaine, are a unique demographic. Often, facilities have available spaces for pregnant women who are in need of substance use treatment.

Finding those facilities can feel overwhelming. Allow our professional staff to find a substance use program that can address your unique situation and help you make the best decision for you and your loved one.