Substance Abuse & Birth Defects

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month. With over 150,000 children born with birth defects annually in the United States, understanding the causes of and preventative measures against these conditions is essential.

Unfortunately, too often, birth defects are caused by substance abuse.

In an effort to help prevent the impact of drugs and alcohol on children, we are exploring how substance abuse causes birth defects, and what preventative measures should be in place to avoid these medical problems.

How Substance Abuse Causes Birth Defects

Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause a number of birth defects, including mental retardation, facial malformations, and defects in the heart, joints, muscles, and kidneys.

Other effects include low birth weight, developmental delays, poor fine motor skills, learning problems, and more.


Many people view marijuana as a harmless substance, but like alcohol, it can affect an unborn child. The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, can cross the placenta into the fetus, causing toxins to enter the system and prevent a proper oxygen supply. Smoking can increase risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and birth defects.

Recently, the American Medical Association passed guidelines regarding marijuana use in pregnancy and breastfeeding. The organization wants warnings to be written on all medical and recreational marijuana products.

Other Drugs of Abuse

Cocaine, ecstasy, methheroin, and prescription drugs can also cause birth defects when abused during pregnancy.

Prevent Drug Abuse Among Pregnant Women

Test Smartly Labs nationwide provide drug and alcohol testing, including medication monitoring for physicians and OB/GYNs. We can help prevent birth defects through regular substance abuse testing.

Learn more about our drug and alcohol testing services today, then locate your nearest Test Smartly Labs for service!

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