Amarah's Corner: Doctor shares effects of alcohol, opiates on babies

Hi! My name is Amarah. Kids are important to me, and they’re important to Jesus, too.

In Matthew 18:10 (KJV), Jesus said, “Take heed that ye despise not (hurt or be mean to) one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.”

“Kids like me” are kids whose parents are drug addicts, and alcoholics; kids who have suffered, or who are suffering, abuse and neglect on multiple levels; and kids who are victims of bullying.

Hey kids like me, Dr. Svetlana Bresnitz is back today with very important information about the harmful effects of alcohol and opiates on babies when a pregnant mom drinks alcohol and or uses opiates. Dr. Bresnitz was my and my baby sister, Ava’s, first doctor in Alamosa. She is AWESOME! I love Dr. Bresnitz and highly recommend her for children! She was born in Slovakia and has lived in Alamosa for 21+ years.

Dr. Bresnitz shared a favorite quote with me that I want to share with you. “We can do no great things - only small things with great love.” Mother Teresa

Effects of Alcohol and Opiates on Unborn Babies

Does drinking alcohol during pregnancy harm a baby? Prenatal exposure to alcohol can damage the developing fetus and it is the leading preventable cause of birth defects, intellectual delays and disabilities. These result from alcohol’s structural and/or functional effects on the brain and other organ systems, particularly cardiovascular, renal, ocular, auditory and musculoskeletal. Learning and behavioral problems resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure are life-long. They are also completely preventable by not drinking alcohol in pregnancy.

Is there a safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy? No amount of alcohol use in pregnancy is safe. Many women have misconceptions about the ‘safety’ of alcohol use and as a result continue to consume alcohol during pregnancy despite the surgeon general’s warnings. There is no known absolutely safe quantity, frequency, type or timing of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

What is fetal alcohol syndrome? Fetal Alcohol Syndrome refers to constellation of physical, behavioral, emotional and cognitive abnormalities resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure. One can end up with subtle learning and/or behavioral problems, or significant intellectual disability. Alcohol is associated with higher incidence of ADHD, learning disabilities such as math difficulties, impaired memory and problem solving skills, difficulties with language use and comprehension, deficits in cognitive planning social interaction skills and peer relationships. Individuals with fetal alcohol syndrome have 95% lifetime likelihood to experience anxiety, mood disorders, depression, substance use, addiction, suicide, all of which lead to greater rates of school disruption, troubles with the law and under-employment or unemployment.

What about opiates? How does it affect the baby if a pregnant mom uses opiates during her pregnancy? Substance use during pregnancy occurs commonly in the United States. Use of opioids during pregnancy has grown rapidly in the past decade, and so did complications from their use, including neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS may present within 24-hours of birth, but it may also be delayed for up to 5-7 days. Clinical signs of NAS include: irritability, poor feeding, failure to thrive, vomiting, loose stools, weight loss, and seizures. Up to 94% of newborns exposed to opioids in utero will develop withdrawal signs. Mother and baby are subject to significant, additional risks due to often absent, late or inadequate prenatal care, placental abruption, precipitous labor, hypertensive episodes, severe mood swings, strokes, myocardial infarctions, spontaneous abortions or unexplained late fetal demise. Subacute signs of opioid withdrawal in babies may last up to six-months. Also, abrupt discontinuation of opioids in pregnancy can result in preterm labor, fetal distress or death.

Thank you, Dr. Bresnitz! You are a GEM! And, thank you for reading my column. Please send questions or comments to me in care of the Courier, [email protected] or write to me at Amarah’s Childrens Foundation “Kids Like Me” P.O. Box 354, Alamosa, CO 81101, or call (719) 937-1033, leave a message, and someone will return your call. If you know a kid like me, or parent who is an addict, or alcoholic, please tell him or her about “Amarah’s Corner, Kids Like Me” in the Valley Courier newspaper and tell them to contact me, or you can contact me on their behalf. And, if you know a kid like me, or parent, who does not have a Bible, but would like to have one, please, contact me and I will make sure he or she gets a Bible of their very own, “…and all the earth may know there is a God…” (1 Samuel 17:46, KJV).

My goal is to help kids like me, and I want to help their parents, too. Until next time, remember, Jesus Loves You, and JESUS IS LORD!