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Didn't know you were pregnant?

Once you know you are pregnant, drink and any drugs are usually off-limits, but what if you didn't know you were expecting, until now?


Posted: 4 September 2009
by Laura Lee Davies


It would be naive to think that all women walk around in a wholesome, drink- and drug-free state before they get pregnant. Especially given those women who weren't actively trying for a baby. And whilst there is advice on safe medicines during pregnancy many women are often left worrying that wild nights out they have recently enjoyed, are going to have a serious affect on the health of their growing baby.

Alcohol
You can't go back in time, so the first thing to do is stop worrying.
There is some research to suggest that a few drinking sessions (that were not too excessive) are not going to affect the baby in the long run.
Some women find that they get more unexpectedly sick after a few drinks anyway, even if they don't at that point know they are pregnant, and this inadvertently curtails their drinking.
Even if you have had a binge, you cannot change the course of history now so it is better to start thinking about getting together a good basis for pregnancy diet and nutrition from here on in.
Anyone who has ever had an alcoholic drink will tell you that it has an effect on the brain and body, especially the ones who can remember their last hangover!
Because these effects are transported through the blood stream, and a fetus takes all its nutrition directly from the mother's blood, it is easy to see that continued drinking through pregnancy is going to have a negative effect on the baby.
The odd drink of wine or lower alcohol beer will not neccessarily be a worry, but continued heavy drinking on a regular basis has been shown to affect a baby's brain and physical development.
If you find that you really miss your glass of wine at the end of the day, check out this ThinkBaby article on booze-free alternatives. Remember, too, that even soft drinks can be full of unpleasant additives like saccharine. The Food Standards Agency offers safe guidelines on food and drink during pregnancy and recommend a maximum of one or two units of alcohol twice a week, as a maximum during pregnancy.

Drugs
Cocaine and marijuana do cross the placenta, however, marijuana use in early pregnancy has not been proven to seriously harm the unborn child. It is advisable, though, to stop using it once you are aware you are pregnant, as continued use could cause problems during later pregnancy, or produce a premature or low-birth-weight baby.
Use of cocaine in early pregnancy is not such a worry, but as with dope, continued use later into or throughout pregnancy could cause serious problems.

Cigarettes
Smoking before pregnancy does not affect your unborn baby, and if you have been smoking up until now, it is better not to dwell on the past but to work hard now on giving up, at least until after the birth. If you can, try to give up permanently, as smoking around a young baby does increase the risk of SIDS (cot death).
Smoking the early months does not appear to be as harmful as it is beyond four months, so now is the time to quit.
Some women do choose to continue to smoke during pregnancy and their babies survive without any serious problems, however, as with so many other things in pregnancy, erring on the side of caution is advisable once you are aware of your situation. Miscarriage, low-birth-weight babies and longer term health issues for your baby, are some of the key dangers from continued smoking.

If you are looking for help quitting smoking during pregnancy, or help getting off drugs or a serious drinking habit, contact your GP or local baby clinic. You could also check out the NHS website.


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