Q. My best friend and I are both pregnant. She's about 18 weeks and I'm 15 weeks. My friend took Ecstasy two times and smoked pot before she knew she was pregnant and I drank a few times and also smoked pot occasionally before I knew I was pregnant. I quit smoking everything, even cigarettes, but she continues to smoke pot and cigarettes every day. I'm worried that what I did before I knew I was pregnant will affect my baby, and I'm also worried about what my friend is doing to hers. Could taking Ecstasy and smoking pot and cigarettes potentially lead to brain damage in the baby? I want our kids to grow up together and play and not have anything wrong with either of them. Please help!
A. I'm glad to see that you are taking responsibility for the well-being of yourself and your unborn child by quitting smoking and recreational drugs. You are right to assume that these activities could adversely affect your baby. Ecstasy has been known to cause brain damage, behavioral problems and even birth defects. Marijuana use is associated with brain damage and low birth weight to the fetus. Cigarette smoke has proven detrimental to unborn babies, mainly by causing low birth weight.
Try not to worry about your prior use of drugs and alcohol. There is nothing you can do about it now. Many women have ingested alcohol, drugs and medications before knowing they were pregnant and had perfectly healthy babies. See the other "alcohol" question for more details. The chances of your behavior affecting your baby are minimal as compared to your friend.
If your friend will not listen to your advice alone, you may want to enlist the help of some other friends and family to talk to her. Maybe even try an intervention-type meeting. You can contact your local substance abuse centers or a hospital for more information and helpful advice.
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Q. I smoke pot on a regular basis. Does this affect my chances of becoming pregnant?
A. Yes, marijuana use does hinder your fertility ability. Women who smoke pot have an increased risk of abnormalities in ovulation, which leads to more infertility. Even smoking within one year of conception puts you at risk.
A man's fertility is also greatly affected by marijuana use. It decreases testosterone, sperm count and potency.
Smoking marijuana before and/or during pregnancy can put your baby at risk for spontaneous abortion, pregnancy complications, problems with labor and delivery and birth defects.
If you are planning on pregnancy, I recommend quitting smoking pot now and waiting until next year before trying to conceive. This will give you and your baby the best chance for a healthy future.
Q. During pregnancy, does the father using marijuana affect the unborn child?
-Tammy, North Carolina
A. As long as the mother carrying the child does not inhale the marijuana smoke, the fetus will be fine.
The only time pot smoking will affect any aspects of a man's fertility is before conception. Excessive marijuana use has been linked to low sperm counts and weaker swimmers.
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Q. I have a friend who is a crystal meth user. She might be pregnant, but she's not sure. She has some signs but others have not shown. I'm wondering if the drug will cause some symptoms not to appear?
A. Crystal methamphetamine shouldn't mask the signs and symptoms of pregnancy. Drug user or not, each woman's symptoms of pregnancy can be very different. Some may only miss a period, while others will have morning sickness, sore breasts, dizziness, fatigue and uterine cramping.
If your friend is pregnant and continues to use crystal meth, she'll be putting her baby at risk for growth impairment, premature birth, developmental disorders and cognitive deficits. She should seek recovery help ASAP. See: http://www.crystalrecovery.com for more information.
Q. If a person who is about to have a baby injects heroin and cocaine into her blood, how long does it take for the drugs to get out of the baby and mother's systems?
A. Heroin and/or cocaine use during pregnancy can cause serious complications including miscarriage, premature delivery and stillbirth. Children born to drug addicted mothers are also at greater risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Cocaine and heroin probably take a few weeks to completely disappear from a person's system. If you or someone you know is trying to quit cold turkey during pregnancy, you may want to advise that it's probably not a good idea. Although heroin use is harmful, pregnant women should not be detoxified from it because of increased risk for spontaneous abortion or premature delivery. Treatment with methadone, in place of heroin, can help wean both mother and baby off the drug. Infants born to mothers taking methadone may show signs of physical dependence, but they can be treated easily and safely after delivery.