Indiscriminate Drug Use In Pregnancy - Pregnancy Nigeria

May 29, 2024

Indiscriminate Drug Use In Pregnancy

Pregnancy Nigeria


During pregnancy, it is important to watch what is taken into the body. Most women engage in drug abuse by taking drugs without a doctor’s prescription. Some even take in social drugs to excessive alcohol. Studies have shown that most birth defects result from the illicit use of drugs. Sometimes however, drugs are essential for the health of the pregnant mother and the baby. In such cases it must have to be prescribed by a trained healthcare practitioner who knows and is capable of taking into consideration the risk and benefits of such drugs.


Drugs can have harmful effects on the fetus at any time during pregnancy. The nature of the effect however depends on the stage of development of the baby, strength and dose of the drugs.

During the first two weeks of development, the embryo is considered to be resistant to any teratogenic effect. However they lead miscarriage or obvious birth defect that is noticed later in life.

Within 2—3 months of development, the baby is in a critical period of this period, the major organs and systems develop. This begins at about 17 days after conception and is completed by 60-70 days. Exposure to certain drugs at this stage cause major and obvious birth defects

At the second and third trimester of pregnancy (4-9) months, exposure to certain drugs causes serious consequences such as malformation of functioning organs e.g. heart and system circulatory and nervous system deformities. During the last 12 weeks of pregnancy, drug use poses the greatest risk which can amount to stunted fetal growth and pre term birth. A drug taken by a pregnant woman can affect the baby while in the womb and after delivery. Most drugs cross the placenta causing direct toxic effect there thus hindering the normal developmental process.

Drugs affect the baby in the womb in the following ways:

They act directly on the fetus causing damage and abnormal development leading to birth defect and death. They can alter the function of the placenta causing the narrowing of blood vessels and hence reducing the supply of oxygen and nutrient from the mother to the baby. This makes the baby to be under weight and underdeveloped. They can cause the muscle of uterus to contract forcefully injuring the fetus by reducing blood supply thereby triggering preterm labour and delivery

Also drugs taken during pregnancy have the capacity to affect the mother and the baby after delivery.


The food and drug administration and control classify drug according to the risk they pose to the foetus if they are used during pregnancy. Some drugs are very toxic and should never be used during pregnancy while others can still affect the pregnancy several weeks after they have been stopped. Hence for safety purpose, a woman who is under medication and wishes to get pregnant must first consult a physician for adequate guidance on either to substitute or change her medication to another which has lesser or no risk


  • DIAZEPAM: when taken late in pregnancy, it causes depression, irritability, shaking and exaggerated reflexes in the new born
  • CHLORAMPHENICOL: This is described as grey baby, a breakdown in rbc making the baby to always be anemic.
  • STREPTOMYCIN: This causes damage to the fetus and resulting in deafness.
  • SULFONAMIDES PLUS TRIMETHROPRIM: When taken late in pregnancy, it cause jaundice and possible brain damage in the new born.
  • TETRACYCLINE: This causes slowed bone growth, permanent coloring of the teeth and increased risk to cavities on the body (abnormal hole)of the baby. on the part of the mother, it can result in liver failure
  • ASPIRIN AND OTHER SALICILATES E.G IBUPROFEN, NAPROXEN: If taken in large quantity during pregnancy, it can cause delay in labour. Premature closing of the connection between the lungs(ductus arteriosus) jaundice, bleeding problem in the newborn and in the woman before and after delivery. Also if taken in large quantity between 2-8 months, it can cause reduction of amniotic fluid.

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