Arielle A. Pinckney
Clark State Community College
The outcomes of babies being born to addicted mothers
The babies born to addicted mothers face challenges from the time they are conceived all throughout their life. Addicted mothers who use substances such as alcohol, illicit drugs, and smoke cigarettes put their child at risk for a multitude of health and developmental issues even if they are not apparent at birth. The impact of using these substances affects social, emotional and predisposition of one’s own possibility to become addicted themselves.
The environment that surrounds addicted mothers contains many teratogens, factors that produce birth defects, and the timing and quantity of exposure to them is crucial (Feldman, 2017). The direct exposure to substances such as alcohol, cigarette smoking, cocaine, marijuana, and other drugs effect the fetal structures and oxygen supply to the fetus (Feldman, 2017). Babies born to addicted mothers often are low birth weight and more irritable because they are essentially born addicted themselves. Breastfeeding is difficult because milk supply is decreased by drugs used and are passed in the milk to the baby (Behnke ; Smith, 2013). Oftentimes, babies born to addicted mothers are surrounded by poor circumstances which put them at a greater risk for malnourishment, learning disabilities, lack of support structures, and even death (Smith ; Wilson, 2016). The homes of addicted mothers also put their child at risk and are involved with criminal activity, poor living conditions, lack of child-proofing, and neglect which can lead to social services becoming involved (Smith ; Wilson, 2016). One in five children grow up in a home where someone uses drugs or misuses alcohol (Smith ; Wilson, 2016).
Health issues that plague babies born to addicted mothers include spectrum disorders, fetal alcohol effects, SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), prenatal complications, malformations, retarded growth, prolonged postnatal hospitalization, as well as behavioral and cognitive issues (Smith ; Wilson, 2016). Alcohol, nicotine, cannabinoids, opioids, and cocaine are among the most widely used drugs and the effects on fetuses have a wide array of disorders. As a baby grows into a young child, delays become apparent and many children born to addicted mothers do not have adequate healthcare or resources available, making it less likely to effectively deal with their issues.
The long-term effects of babies born to addicted mothers include; behavioral disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder; impaired intellectual and academic achievement, delayed language development, poor memory, inability to learn from mistakes, a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder, anxiety and mood disorders, lower self-esteem, and perceived lack of control over their environment (Smith ; Wilson, 2016). Psychological effects of children born to addicted mothers can range from minor to major. Sleep issues, mood and personality disorders, hyperactivity, shortened attention spans, language difficulty and coordination with fine and large motor skills can affect the child through-out life making it especially difficult in school-age years (Smith ; Wilson, 2016). Emotional issues that often accompany the psychological issues include anger outbursts, withdrawn behavior, criminal behavior, anxiety and depression, low self-esteem, learning difficulties, conduct problems, and substance abuse (Behnke ; Smith, 2013). Physical impacts include growth problems, low weight, chemical imbalances, structural abnormalities, and speech and eyesight issues. At 14 to 15 years of age, the children in their cohort scored signi?cantly lower on mathematics tests than did their classmates who were not exposed to amphetamines prenatally (Behnke ; Smith, 2013).
Family structure throughout life of babies born to addicted mothers can be strained. Adverse childhood experiences include abuse (eg, emotional, physical, or sexual), neglect (eg, emotional or physical), and household dysfunction (eg, substance abuse, mental illness, intimate partner violence, incarceration, or separation or divorce) (Smith ; Wilson, 2016). These brain changes can become behavior problems, violence, and substance use throughout life (Smith ; Wilson, 2016). There is also a high percentage of parental abandonment in children of substance abusers (Herranz, 2014). This multitude of factors make it increasingly difficult to lead a normal lifestyle. Neglect and abuse can be missed in doctor visits because they are often quickly overlooked, however physical abuse markers can be easier to identify and social services can be involved if abuse is suspected (Smith and Wilson, 2016). Without the proper family structure, such as substance abusers in the home, abandonment, and lack of care, children and adolescents can becomes substance abusers themselves.
Vulnerability to develop an addiction is dependent on both genetics and the environment (Vassoler, Byrnes ; Pierce, 2014). There are studies dedicated to how genetics attribute to one’s own predisposition to substance abuse, but environment and nurturing play a larger role given the circumstances and how they have affected an individual born to an addicted mother throughout their life. Children of alcoholics are nearly 4 times more likely to have an alcohol use disorder, with rates of hazardous use starting in the adolescent years and continuing into adulthood (Smith & Wilson, 2016). Inappropriate coping mechanisms that were learned over the course of growing up in strained environments can be problematic in future relationships and employment. Without properly dealing with the effects, given their level of severity, they can have serious drawbacks to normalcy and independence in adulthood.
Community resources available can help deal with the effects of addiction and disabilities. Financial help is available for those with disabilities. Babies born to addicted mothers face a wide range of obstacles and many repeat the viscous cycle of substance abuse if they do not get the help that they need. Support systems are important and can keep this cycle from happening. Learning to cope and having support systems in place can help lead a healthy lifestyle to the best of one’s ability that can affect their own future offspring.
Behnke, M., ; Smith, V. C. (2013, February 25). Prenatal Substance Abuse: Short- and Long
-term Effects on the Exposed Fetus. Retrieved June 30, 2018, from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/02/20/peds.2012-3931
Feldman, R. S. (2017). Discovering the Life Span (4th ed.). Retrieved June 30, 2018.
Herranz, G. S. (2014). Children Born to Heroin-Addicted Mothers: What’s the Outcome 25 Years Later? Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy, 05(02). doi:10.4172/2155-6105.1000180
Smith, V. C., & Wilson, C. R. (2016, July 18). Families Affected by Parental Substance Use. Retrieved June 30, 2018, from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/07/14/peds.2016-1575?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_medium=TrendMD&utm_campaign=Pediatrics_TrendMD_0Vassoler, F. M., Byrnes, E. M., & Pierce, R. C. (2014, January). The Impact of Exposure to Addictive Drugs on Future Generations: Physiological and Behavioral Effects. Retrieved July 6, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3864776/