Prenatal Alcohol and Cocaine Exposure: Influences on Cognition, Speech, Language, and Hearing

The effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol and cocaine are complex.   Both alcohol and cocaine have serious effects on a fetus.   The alcohol consumed by a fetus’s mother travels through the placenta into the baby’s blood stream almost instantly, while the cocaine and its metabolites cross the placenta to the fetus.   Approximately 16 percent of pregnant women use alcohol and consume an average of about 24 drinks within a month, nearly four drinks per day for six days. In addition, exposure of cocaine results in cognitive disabilities at age 4.   Prenatal alcohol exposure increases the risk of birth defects, including physical, cognitive, and behavioral disorders.   By consuming alcohol and cocaine during pregnancy, prenatal development can result in the impairment of a child’s speech, language, hearing, and cognitive development.
The after effects of alcohol consumption, known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) or Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE), refer to the mental and physical growth problems that may occur in a baby during its prenatal development.   Some of the features include facial dysmorphism, a very rare syndrome in which the child has loose joints, facial anomalies and a shawl scrotum.   In addition to the facial dysmorphism, postnatal growth retardation, decrease of muscle tone and poor coordination, heart defects such as Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) or Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) are also features of this syndrome.   Moreover, there are structural problems with the face including small head, upper jaw, narrow eyes with large epicanthal folds, and smooth groove in upper lip and thin upper lip.  
Prenatal alcohol exposure during fetal development can cause mental retardation.   Those who have been exposed to alcohol have an IQ score of only 60-85 points.   These children suffer from mental retardation, which include disabilities and difficulties in reading, writing, memorization, verbal memory and arithmetic skills. Also, it affects the auditory system which may...