Drugs and Birth
To learn about the harmful effects of alcohol and other drugs on fetal development.
Adolescents, both males and females, should know that using alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs not only harms the user, but can cause serious physical and mental damage or even death to the fetus.
Prepare for this lesson by reviewing normal fetal development. Discuss the importance of the first trimester of pregnancy, when the developing fetus is at greatest risk of malformation due to drugs. Then ask students to identify drugs that could adversely affect the developing fetus (examples: alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, tobacco, caffeine, prescription drugs).
Give each student a copy of the handout Harmful Effects of Drugs on the Fetus (next page) and have the class read it. Discuss the following:
• Which drugs cause withdrawal symptoms?
• Which drugs cause seizures?
• Which drugs cause low birth weight?
• What are the problems of low birth weight?
• Which drugs cause physical handicaps?
• Which drugs cause learning disabilities and behavior problems? e Which drugs affect men's and women's reproductive systems?
Discuss the myths, "I'll quit (smoking, drinking, taking drugs) when I get pregnant," and "Stopping when I get pregnant will be soon enough to prevent problems." (A woman usually doesn't know she is pregnant until six weeks into pregnancy, by which time the damage may already have been done.)
Divide the class into pairs and have students practice asking a friend or relative who is pregnant or wants to be pregnant to give up alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs. Have students share what they learned with the rest of the class.
Harmful Effects of Drugs on the Fetus.
• Suggest a local health agency or clinic where students could get more information or get help for a friend or relative who needs to know about the risks of drugs in pregnancy.
Learning to Live Drug-Free, A Curriculum Model for Prevention, U.S. Department of Education's Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program