Smoking, drinking, and other recreational drug use during pregnancy is a major public health problem. Throughout this synthesis I will discuss how teratogens effect children before birth. I am going to hit key points about tobacco use and recreational drug use during pregnancy the most. Tobacco and recreational drug use during pregnancy can cause antisocial behavior including conduct disorder and delinquency. The use of tobacco during pregnancy has adverse prenatal consequences and these consequences can extend far beyond the prenatal period (Wakschlag, 2002). Antisocial behavior is defined as a chronic violation of social norms and rules which can have both violent and nonviolent manifestations. This antisocial behavior can end up being categorized as a mental disorder. Exposure during pregnancy may play a casual role in the onset of severe antisocial behavior via teratological effects on the fetus (Wakschlag, 2002). A teratogen is the name for any substance that crosses the placenta to harm the fetus. Exposure to tobacco constituents during fetal development and via environmental tobacco smoke exposure is known as the most hazardous of a child’s environmental exposure (DiFranza, 2004).
Children exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in the home increases the incidence of middle ear disease, asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia; just to name a few. Hospitalization for respiratory illness is far more likely for children of smokers than those who are not. The use of cocaine during pregnancy is linked to miscarriage, growth retardation, and learning and behavior problems (Belsky, pg 51). Cocaine exposed infants were about a week younger, measured shorter, weighed less, and had a head circumference smaller than nonexposed infants. Central and autonomic nervous system symptoms, as well as infection, were more frequent (but not always) with infants that were exposed to cocaine in utero (Bauer, 2005). Though long-term effects of cocaine usage while pregnant are almost nonexistent in children of mothers who used cocaine. According to Growth, Development, and Behavior in Early Childhood Following Prenatal Cocaine Exposure there was no consistent negative association between prenatal cocaine exposure and physical growth, developmental test scores or receptive or expressive language.
Prenatal cocaine exposure without concurrent opiate exposure has not been shown to be an independent risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (Frank, 2001). In my personal experience, I have seen quite a few pregnant women smoke or use other recreational drugs. I have also seen them give birth to extremely healthy children. I can admit to smoking while I was pregnant, but it was maybe a cigarette every few days. Now, I can see having major issues when the mother smokes a pack a day and is constantly around smokers. But, as a non-habitual smoker, my son, who is two, is bright, sweet, and has absolutely no health issues.
In conclusion, I would never tell a pregnant woman to smoke or do cocaine, but let it be known that bad things do not always happen. Cocaine during pregnancy can cause antisocial behavior, but not always. Smoking during pregnancy can cause a child to have health problems more than almost anything, but I believe this is also dependent upon the environment.
Frank, D., Augrustyn, M., Knight, W., Pell, T., Zuckerman, B. (2001). Growth, Development, and Behavior in Early Childhood Following Prenatal Cocaine Exposure. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 285 (12), 1613-1625.
Wakschlag, L., Pickett, K., Cook, E., Benowitz, N., Leventhal, B. (2002). Maternal Smoking During Pregnancy And Severe Antisocial Behavior in Offspring: A Review. American Journal of Public Health. Volt. 92, No. 6, pp 966-974.
DiFranza, J., Algine, A., Weitzman, M. (2004). Prenatal and Postnatal Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure and Children’s Health. PEDIATRICS. Vol.
113, pp. 1007-1015.