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Substance Abuse During Pregnancy

            Prenatal exposure to substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs result in numerous castes of irreversible birth defects. Birth defects related to drinking, smoking, and the intake of illegal drugs are entirely preventable. Research has shown that approximately twenty percent of all women consume alcohol or smoke a cigarette during their pregnancy; four percent of those women consume some manner of an illegal drug such as marijuana or cocaine. Susceptibility to these substances ensue in birth defects such as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), low body weight, sudden infant death syndrome(SIDS), and mental retardation just to name a few. Abstinence of such substances is the best way to ensure the birth of a healthy baby.
             Of the three most popular forms of substance abuse, alcohol consumption is the leading cause of birth defects in the United States. Studies taken by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have proven that over eighteen percent of women drink alcohol during their pregnancy. Birth defects caused by the intake of alcohol include fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), cleft lip, and other mental disabilities. The amount of damage a newborn can receive depends on the amount of alcohol consumed by the mother. Tests show that mothers who drank one to two drinks daily during their pregnancy caused the child to be below the normal birth weight. On the other hand, pregnant women who consumed more than five drinks per day resulted in numerous defects including full blown FAS. All birth defects caused by alcohol are preventable.
             Fetal alcohol syndrome is the most common outcome due to drinking alcohol. FAS is diagnosed by the following:.
             "(1) weight and/or length below the 10th percentile; (2) central nervous system involvement, including neurological abnormalities, developmental delays, behavioral dysfunction, intellectual impairment, and skull or brain malformations; and (3) a characteristic face with sort eye openings, a thin upper lip, an elongated flattened midface, and a groove in the of the upper lip" (United, 1).

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