Prenatal Substance Exposure

What does Prenatal Substance Exposure mean?

Prenatal substance exposure occurs when a pregnant woman uses illicit drugs during pregnancy. Unfortunately, prenatal substance exposure has potentially deleterious and even long-term effects on exposed children, although the full extent of the harm is not fully understood. Women who take illicit drugs while pregnant are likely to experience other negative factors such as nutritional deficits, lack of prenatal care, neglect or abuse, and other socioeconomic conditions which make it difficult to determine the direct impact of prenatal drug use on a baby.

As mentioned above, it is difficult to understand the exact effect of drug use on a child, but what doctors do know is that various drugs or abuse may result in premature birth, miscarriage, and low birth weight. Children may also have a variety of behavioral and cognitive problems which can vary based on the type of drugs used, the duration of the drug use and other harmful factors during pregnancy.

According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, "The number of women abusing illegal drugs during pregnancy in the United States is currently estimated at between 100,000 and 375,000, with the number of infants prenatally exposed to illicit drugs ranging from 13 to 181 per 1,000 births."

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