Drinking and smoking during pregnancy are two of the major causes of developmental problems in children, both in the womb and postpartum.
Smoking causes problems because of reduced oxygen to the fetus. The carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke can cut down the ability of the mother’s blood to transport oxygen by as much as 40%. Constriction of capillaries due to nicotine content also interferes with the transfer of nutrients and oxygen to the baby via the placental capillaries.
If a woman drinks alcohol during her pregnancy, her baby can be born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), a lifelong condition involving physical and mental disabilities. Even small amounts of alcohol can be harmful.
FAS is characterized by abnormal facial features, growth deficiencies, and central nervous system (CNS) problems. Any or all of them may be present. People with FASD can have problems with learning, memory, attention span, communication skills, vision, hearing, or a combination of these. These can easily lead to difficulties in school, and trouble getting along with other people.
Experts are coming to realize that many children who are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are actually suffering from FASD.
Other drugs can cause their own problems, including children born with addictions, or increasing the chances of their developing an addiction later in live. These obvious problems are in addition to the likelihood of the mother not paying close attention to nutrition and other health issues that could harm a developing child.
Bottom line: clean and sober moms are far more likely to have healthy, happy, trouble-free kids. Pregnant moms who drink or use drugs need to be treated in medical detox facilities. Explaining issues like these can be helpful in effecting interventions with women who are pregnant or likely to become pregnant.