Alcohol and Substances during Pregnancy: Whose problem? Whose health?
Say yes to protecting your baby
Being pregnant is a special time when your body is creating a new life. That’s why living healthily is so important. When you are pregnant, your baby gets everything it needs to develop and grow from your blood. Smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs lets in harmful chemicals, which can damage your baby. Whatever you put into your body, you are putting into your baby’s body too, and this can be very dangerous for you both.
So, what are the risks?
Alcohol can cause serious brain and physical abnormalities in your baby in the form of FAS or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. FAS includes severe life-long learning and behavioral difficulties. FAS includes heart defects and abnormalities in the arms, legs, kidneys, ears and eyes FAS is easy to prevent, if you do not drink alcohol while you are pregnant, your baby will not get FAS.
The many poisons in cigarette smoke can damage your baby’s lungs. Children born to smokers are more likely to get asthma. Babies of smokers are more likely to be born with a cleft lip or palate (when the lip or roof of the mouth does not join properly).
• Tik, dagga, heroin and cocaine can harm the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system.
• Babies may be born with learning difficulties and have behavioural problems like being aggressive or hyperactive.
• Tik can cause abnormalities with the baby’s heart, kidneys, brain, digestive system and bones.
• Tik also increases the chance of miscarriage, reduced head size, premature delivery, birth deformities and stillbirth.
• Babies born to mothers using drugs may be born with severe withdrawal symptoms after birth. This can make them tremble, cry a lot and sleep badly. They can also have problems breathing, sucking and swallowing.
You might really want to quit but worry that you can’t.
Here are a few suggestions to help:
• Think of times in the past when you have overcome someti=hing diffult. What helped you then? Would it help again?
• Ask your midwife if there is someone at the clinic you can talk to, like a counsellor or nurse, who can help give you the support you need or just be there to listen.
• Try making new friends or spending time with people who don’t smoke or drink.
• Ask a friend or family member to try to quit with you; the extra support may make things easier on you.
• If you know someone who has quit in the past, find out what worked for them.
• Try to avoid going to clubs and parties for a while because it may make it harder to resist.
• Distractions like a new hobby or interest may improve your mood and take your mind off quitting.
• Reminders like ashtrays, lighters, pipes or bottles of alcohol may trigger cravings.
• Having something to chew, like gum or crunchy carrots, can help stop a craving in its tracks.
• Exercise is a great, healthy distraction.
• Eating healthily, taking multivitamins and getting lots of sleep can add to your growing list of healthy habits.
• Take it one day at a time. Avoid the thought that you will never smoke or drink or use drugs again. Think of only getting through this one day and tackle tomorrow when it comes.
• Just say that you won’t use substances today.
Cape Town Drug Counselling Centres
Observatory tel: 021 447 8026 or Mitchells Plain tel: 021 391 0216
South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (SANCA)
Tel: 021 945 4080/1 (regional office)
Branches in Atlantis, Tygerberg, Paarl, Athlone/Gugulethu,
Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha