Speaking of Your Health: Alcohol and drug-related birth defects

May 10-16 was Alcohol & Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) plays a major and vital role across the US in educating people, especially women, about the dangers of consuming alcohol and using drugs during pregnancy.

It is not pretty. Newborns can come into the world with severe birth defects. The reality is harsh and sad. NCADD believes children deserve better! An educated mother and her spouse and/or sexual partner can prevent the fate many newborns face. NCADD knows these tragic births can be prevented if people understood the truth.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), the leading known cause of developmental disabilities in newborns (historically known as mental retardation) stems from maternal alcoholism or heavy drinking during pregnancy. Features of FASD include growth deficiency before and after birth, developmental delays, intellectual challenges, behavioral problems, changes in facial features such as a flattened midface, small jaw and/or a thin upper lip.

. Perinatal cocaine exposure can result in obstetrical complications such as low birth weight, smaller head circumference, abnormal neonatal behavior and cerebral infarction at birth. Children with this exposure are easily distracted, passive and face a variety of visual and perceptual problems and difficulties with fine motor skills.

. Alcohol and Drug use During Pregnancy: In the US, 20 percent (about one million) of pregnant women smoke cigarettes; about 12 percent of women drink alcohol during pregnancy; another six percent (225,000) women use an illicit drug at least once while carrying a child to term.

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