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More on Women, Pregnancy, Alcohol and Drugs

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More on Women, Pregnancy, Alcohol and Drugs

pregnant woman silhouetteIn West Virginia, nearly 1/5 of children are born with drugs or alcohol in their system, which means result, they don’t reach their full potential. I got this from Nicholas Kristof, who wrote an op-ed in the NYT in February called When Even the Starting Line is Out of Reach.

He’s talking, of course, about rural Appalachia. We’ve been hearing about the poverty in that area forever. Kristof goes on to say that the anti-poverty efforts over the years there haven’t worked because the damage poverty does occurs in the early years, as children’s brains are developing. So, to use a cliché, talking about raising the minimum wage when these children reach adulthood (an example of what he calls adult interventions) is closing the barn door after the horse has escaped.

What would help? Kristof says: “We need an integrated set of early interventions, starting with family planning to help women and girls avoid unwanted pregnancy (four out of five births to teenagers are unplanned or unwanted). We need outreach efforts to help pregnant women curb use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco….”

There are many other interventions that would help—home visitation programs to get parents reading and speaking to children, and hearing and vision screenings, for example. But isn’t it interesting that programs for alcohol and drug abuse are high on his list? What a perfect example that substance abuse and addiction don’t discriminate. In Appalachia and other poverty-stricken areas, it’s hitting the poorest of the poor.

A different group of pregnant women have another set of problems. In February, Fox6 News had a segment about a study which found that today more doctors are prescribing powerful narcotic pain medications during pregnancy to more than 14 percent of women. The problem, of course, is that the women can easily become addicted, and so researchers want more research done to see if there’s any harm to the fetus.

The most common reason women took the pills was for backache — 37 percent of the more than 500,000 women in the study who gave birth between 2005 to 2011. Other reasons included migraine, joint pain, fibromyalgia and abdominal pain. (Still, wouldn’t you wonder about these drugs for pregnant women, even for short-term use?) To be fair, even the government notes that migraines can worsen in pregnancy, and some women will need medication. But medication for pregnant women is “one of the classical problems in medical treatment,” the article says, and reminds readers of the thalidomide debacle.

One doctor interviewed for the Fox News segment noted that earlier studies were contradictory in weighing in on the risk of opioid use and birth defects. She also said “The risk to the fetus of short-term exposure to prescription opioids under medical supervision is difficult to assess and needs to be carefully examined in future studies.” That’s under medical supervision. Then there are the women who take them on the sly, perhaps not realizing that at some point the urge to feel good turns to abuse and addiction.


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