The Effects Of Prenatal Cocaine Exposure On Cognitive Development

1667 words - 7 pages

There are many factors that are integrated into the successful development of a child from Prenatal growth into toddlerhood. Teratogens (outside factors) have a great impact on the babies’ inutero development. Some outside factors like second-hand smoke, smog, or fumes from cleaning chemicals can cause negative effects on the child inside the womb. A few major affects from teratogens could result in low birth weight, head circumference, slow physical growth as well as an effect on mental, behavioral and motor skills (Berk, 2003). The environment around the mother provides many of these outside factors affecting the baby’s growth. But the main link to teratogens during the gestation period is most likely the mother. Daniel S. Messinger and the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 2.8% of pregnant women admitted to using illicit drugs during their pregnancy (1996). Through illicit drug use, tobacco use and alcohol use, the mother disrupts her baby’s growth with possibly permanent damage.
     One illicit drug that has gone through extensive research is cocaine. Prenatal cocaine exposure has shown to affect the baby physically (defects including eye, bone, genital, urinary tract, kidney, heart deformities, as well as brain hemorrhages) and cognitively (through mental delays, motor, attention, and language problems) (Berk, 2003). Cocaine affects the child subtly but significantly because of what the drug does to the body of both the mother and the growing fetus.
     Cocaine is an illegal drug that can be either smoked in a crack form, or inhaled in a powder form. According to Charles F. Levinthal, cocaine is a stimulant that increases the production of dopamine in the brain. Along with the desired feeling resulting from the increasing dopamine levels, there are many other things taking place inside of the body after intake not only for the user, but also for the growing organism inside of the user (2005). While the drug is in affect in the body (for about 20 to 30 minutes), Laura E. Berk’s research has found that cocaine constricts the user’s blood vessels causing oxygen delivered to the developing organism to fall dramatically for 15 minutes following a high dose (2003). This depravation of oxygen to the developing baby is one of the causes of damage. One of the problems that can result from cocaine use during pregnancy is a condition called abruptio placenta. According to Shad H. Deering of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Madigan Army Medical Center, the condition of abruptio placentae is defined as the premature separation of the placenta from the uterus. Patients with abruptio placentae typically have uterine bleeding, contractions, and fetal distress (2004). With the fetal distress just mentioned, cognitive growth as well as physical growth could be considerably affected. This condition has the rate of 13-35% of occurrence with cocaine abuse during pregnancy (Deering,...

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