Affects of drug use in pregnancy

(12 Posts)

Hi all

Can anyone point me at any good 9easy to understand) sites that explain about the affects of drug use in pregnancy? Please? Is it normal/possible/occasional that drug users will also drink when pregnant and would it be clear if a child was affected by drugs or alcohol or drugs and alcohol in pregnancy, please?

Thanks so much.

Moomoomie Sun 10-Nov-13 21:14:45

If a BM is addicted to drugs the chances of them also drinking alcohol is very high. Alcohol is what causes the organic brain damage which is referred to as FASD. Drugs themselves tend not to cause long term affects. Which is amazing to hear, especially as many pregnant woman will drink alcohol during pregnancy but not shoot up heroin.
Babies born to a drug dependant mother often have horrendous withdrawal, our dd3 was very poorly when she was born, six weeks in SCBU, taking Oramorph, jittery, high pitched cries, low birth weight etc.
I would ask more questions re alcohol consumption than illegal drugs.

AngelsWithSilverWings Sun 10-Nov-13 21:24:41

I struggled to find much info when we were deciding if we could adopt a child who had been exposed to drugs. What little info I managed to get told me that we could cope with drugs but not alcohol.

Our dd was born drug dependant and all I can say is that she is just like any other 5 year old girl now. Her foster carer had a tough time with her though.

We consulted a medical advisor and she couldn't give us any real idea of how the drugs may affect dd as she gets older.

I hope someone else will be along soon with some more helpful advice!

Thanks both of you.

Lilka Sun 10-Nov-13 21:41:30

As Moomomie said, the vast vast majority of illegal dug addicts also drink (though aren't necesarily alcoholics)

In terms of danger to the baby, alcohol is the most dangerous - definitely more likely to cause long term issues than heroin, cocaine, meth etc etc.

It wouldn't necessarily be clear at all that a child has been affected by drugs - if a child has FAS (ie. the facial features) then it's obvious that alcohol has caused this problem. Also as Moomoomie said, drugs which cause physical dependency (eg. heroin) will cause physical dependency in the fetus as well, so after birth the baby has to go through withdrawal which can just be awful to see and requires specialist medical care. That will also be obvious at the time

Otherwise, you're talking only seeing issues years down the line, frequently sensory issues, ADHD, behaviour issues, learning issues and so on. The problem is that you can't easily pick apart, and may not at all be able to tell which drug caused an issue, or whether you're dealing with something which the child would have had anyway even if they weren't drug exposed

Apart from physical withdrawal, physical problems in pregnancy and soon after birth (prematurity etc) and all the alchohol related disorders, we don't really have any conclusive evidence that a certain drug causes certain issues later in childhood. Some drugs are linked to behaviour issues, sensory issues etc, but it's not definitive, and anecdotally you'd find massive variation - children who have been exposed and seem to have major difficulties and children who've been exposed to many drugs and are doing brilliantly with few or no apparent issues. Basically the only conclusive stuff is around things like miscarriage risk, low birth weight risk etc, not learning or behaviour issues, except with alcohol

I can't really help with a website because I've never seen a very good one which has helpful explanations for each drug, especially related to issues later in childhood.

Personally I would be most worried about alcohol exposure because there's definitive proof it can have very serious effects, which will be permanent

Thanks Lilka you all said alcohol is worse but also said people who abuse drugs also drink, is it less likely that drug abuser would be alcoholic so less likely to be be FAS related in children?

Thanks

Moomoomie Mon 11-Nov-13 08:57:10

I dont think it is less likely to abuse alcohol as well as drugs. Alcohol is a lot easier to get your hands on, many of these BM started drinking at a very early age and have progressed to drugs.
Remember too, you will never know the exact amount a mother has drunk during pregnancy.
One doesn't need to be an alcoholic to produce a baby with FASD.

Devora Mon 11-Nov-13 12:01:53

This issue is riddled with uncertainties. First off, a huge proportion of children available for adoption will have been exposed to drugs and/or alcohol in utero - whether or not their social worker knows it. So you have to consider that it may be a risk, even if it's not one flagged up to you.

As others say, you can be born addicted to drugs, clear them out of your system, and move on. Though I would question whether you can ever say 'unaffected' - my dd was in special care on oromorph for nearly two months, with no visitors, then in intermittent screaming pain for the next six months (often the gut is affected). I think that has to leave some kind of impact.

With alcohol, there is even less certainty. For a start, don't go onto FASD websites to check out pictures of children with FAS features (as I did) then try to reassure yourself that your child doesn't look like that. Apparently alcohol at different stages of pregnancy can affect whatever part of the foetus is developing then. So some birth mothers are teetotal for parts of the pregnancy, lapsing into binge drinking at others, and that will affect the imapct.

IME, reading up on FASD is very scary and it's scarier still when you realise how common drinking alcohol is, how understandably motivated birth parents are NOT to share the details of their drinking habits with social workers, and how impossible it is to rule out alcohol-related damage in the first few years of life. So do your research on it, then take a deep breath and accept that this may be part of that leap of faith you are preparing to take smile

Devora Mon 11-Nov-13 12:25:23

Just to add that I don't think people who take drugs are less likely to drink alcohol. 30 or 40 years ago, I think addictions were more substance-specific. These days, people can get their hands on all kinds of stuff and are far less likely to prize loyalty over opportunity.

Also remember the big overlap between substance misuse and mental health problems. People who misuse drugs and alcohol will often experience on impact on their mental wellbeing; people with mental health problems often self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Again, only some parts of this may have been identified by social services, let alone communicated on to prospective adopters.

Maiyakat Mon 11-Nov-13 13:47:32

DD was exposed to drugs in utero. So far there are no obvious effects, but she is still very young. I was told BM did not drink, but as everyone has said drug misuse and alcohol misuse often go hand in hand so I've taken that with a pinch of salt.

One issue with drug misuse is the increased risk of exposure to blood-borne viruses (HIV, Hep B, Hep C), and you often don't get a definitive answer as to whether a child has been affected until they are well over 1 (spent this morning with DD at the hospital for her last blood test to check if clear - she was so brave! [proud mummy face]).

When looking at young children's profiles I noticed there was a lot of statements such as 'X's mother misused alcohol in pregnancy. X has been seen by a geneticist/has had a blood test and does not have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome'. I makes me so mad that this kind of utter rubbish can be put in profiles, especially when it was blatantly obvious from the photo that the child had facial features of FAS. There are others on here that know far more than about FAS than I do, but I'm pretty sure you cannot diagnose or exclude it via a blood test!!

Devora Mon 11-Nov-13 15:01:01

Maiyakat - a paediatrician friend of mine, who often sat on adoption panels, told me that these kind of perky statements used to drive her mad. Her own rule of thumb was by the age of 3 you usually have a pretty good idea whether a child has some kind of significant physiological issues. Though clearly after that you can still get minor/behavioural/learning issues emerging.

Don't know if she had that right, but that's what she said.

IGH, I hope this thread isn't too depressing a read for you. The risks ARE higher than with birth children, but of course you have to remember that with adoption you are kind of confronted with all of life's 'what ifs' in a way that we don't usually have to face up to.

Remember, too, that there are kids (like my dd) who was definitely addicted and ?FASD, who are doing great.

Thanks so much.

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