HLSC 220 Expectant Mothers Substance Use and Health Care Ethics Assignment 1 Answer
Expectant mothers who misuse alcohol and/or illicit drugs should be subject to mandatory reporting requirements for child abuse.
As per the bioethicists, the healthcare system has four ethical principles which include autonomy, justice, beneficence, and non-maleficence. Autonomy signifies the self-sufficiency of thought, decisions, and action. Justice is referred as fair opportunities of all the participants and beneficence signifies the improvement of healthcare providers in term of knowledge and skills for the betterment of the care users. In addition, non-maleficence assures patient safety and security.
Alcohol misuse and illicit drugs consumption during pregnancy can have negative result on fetal development process. It can cause fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects. Furthermore, alcohol and drugs abuse in expectant mother can increase the risk of criminal behaviour, maltreatment, and violent behaviour of the child in their later life. Alcohol and drugs misuse is dangerous during pregnancy as it passes to the foetus through the umbilical cord of the mother. Drinking alcohol in pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and physical disability of the new born along with behavioural and intellectual disability. Such disabilities are termed as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders or FASDs. The children suffering from FASDs have abnormal facial features, small head size, abnormal height compared to age, low body weight, and hyperactive behaviour along with mental disabilities, intellectual difficulties, vision and hearing problem, and multi organ defects (problem with kidney or heart, or bones) (CDC, 2020).
As per World Health Organisation (WHO), the highest level of alcohol consumption is found in European region. In this region, highest level of women alcohol consumption is increasing the health burden and mortality rate(WHO, 2006). In modern world, the gender equality and changing of gender role are elevating the women drinking rate. It has been isolated 82.1% women in European countries are drinking habits among them 3.4% are heavy drinkers(WHO, 2005). The scenario is more or less similar in other developed countries. In Australia, approximately 31% women were heavy drinkers and 8.8% were light drinkers as per the survey conducted in 2017(AIHW, 2019). However the proportion of drinking during pregnancy can vary between the countries. Studies revealed that 22.8% women were continued drinking after their pregnancy in USA (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019). In Australia, 82% women were continuing their drinking habit during pregnancy whereas in European countries like Sweden, only 6% women were continuing their drinking habit in pregnancy, 35.8% women continued their drinking in Norway, and in UK around 29.5% women were carried on their habits in pregnancy(WHO, 2005). A large study conducted in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and UK suggested that the prevalence of women drinking during pregnancy varied from 20%-80% (WHO, 2005).
Misuse of alcohol and illicit drugs by the expectant mother is a controversial issue as the irresponsible behaviour of the mother can destroy the future of the foetus. Misuse of Alcohol during pregnancy can impair fetal development and increase the risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight, and complicated pregnancy which increase the life risk of the new born baby. The first trimester of the pregnancy is important to the foetus for their development. In this stage small amount of alcohol drinking by the mother can interfere with fetal development process. Therefore, it can be assumed that no amount of alcohol can be considered as safe during pregnancy(Schölin, 2017). Furthermore, alcohol consumption of mother can affect the central nervous system of the new born and cause behavioural and cognitive dysfunction. The baby will continue their life with the difficulties and disabilities without any flaws of their own. It is signifies the incident of child abuse and irresponsible behaviour of the mother. The incident of FASDs varies between the countries due to data collection process. The prevalence of FASDs is high in close setting like foster care, correction facilities, prisons, and aboriginal communities. Misuse of alcohol and illicit drugs for long period of time can affete brain struture, change the perception, impair vison and hearing capabilities of the individual. It has been obseved that alcohlism and substances abuse is assocaite with violence, paranoia, and mental illness in users(Child Family Community Australia, 2020). In addtion, withdrwal from addictive beahviour can cause depression, anxiety, and paranoia. It can also induce criminal beahviour of the indivdiual along ith unethical practice (like stealing, laundering, and burglary). Symptoms of addiction and withdrawal in mother indicate that she might face diffciulties in performing household routine work and ensuring the child care. The family can suffer from financial difficultes which depreive the child from their basic needs. The whole senario is indicating towrads the inconsistent parenting which abuse th child mentally and physically. Studies recognised that the alcoholic mother was negelcting their child and abusing them verbally and physically (Child Family Community Australia, 2020). Furthermore, the incident can elevate the risk of sexual abuse, exposure to drug abuse, drug overdose, and crinimal activities in children. Addiction in pregnant women has adverse effects on their foetus. The poor lifestyle and diet along with drugs and alcohol can raise the maternal stress which interfere with oxygen and nutrition supply to the foetus. The foetus can suffer from extreme stress and fight for their survival which is unfortunate (Child Family Community Australia, 2020).
A present theree is federal laws which stop the pregnant women for using alcohol during their pregnancy. But different states are implementing their own laws and policies against the controversy. States like Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Indiana, and Texas are practicing strict legal action against the women abusing alcohol while pregnant can face legal charges f child abuse (Alcohol.org, 2020). However, the circumstances should be considered before the action. In these states, offering alcohol or illicit drugs to the pregnant women is also considered as punishable offence. In both cases the guilty should face jail or penalty. It has been observed that punishment or penalty can not be able to resolve the issue of child abusing by the expectant mother. The laws and punishment can afraid the expectant mother and they can avoid the process of hospital delivery, substances abuse treatment, and negotiating with their parental care. They hide their habits from the medical professionals due to punishment. The scenario can hamper the future of the unborn baby and increase the child abuse in many folds. A study revealed that women were hiding their pregnancy and isolated them for avoiding the punishment for using alcohol and drugs in pregnancy(Alcohol.org, 2020).. It can be serious for the unborn child and their mother.
The main aim is to provide safety to the child in mother womb and after birth. Therfore, the addicted mothers requires more traetment options than punishment. The residential care facilities can help the addcitate expectant mother to live in a positive environment and eliminate their malpractice. In some instances, social and environmental condition can influence the women to drink for reduce their anxiety and depression. The government should implement sufficient funding and rehabilitation process for the expectant mother with substances and alcohol misuse. It can provide opportunities for changing their life and improving the child condition.
Alcohol misuse and substance abuse during pregnancy and in motherhood is a social problem which requires evidence based compassionate solutions for betterment of the society and to stop the child abuse. The voice of the sufferer women should be incorporated in this process to create the trust and believe (Stone, 2015). They can help in eliminating the barrier in help seeking behaviour of the addicted mothers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2016 estimated that around 3.3 million women in USA were alcohol exposed pregnancies(Stone, 2015). Most them were suffering from complicated pregnancy which was increasing the burden on the healthcare system. Based on these report CDC recommended to women of reproductive age to eliminate the use of alcohol during their pregnancy or when they are trying for pregnancy. The implementation of law against the expectant mother who misuse alcohol and drugs requires some considerations. As per CDC, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption in pregnancy. It can be assumed that the scientific studies are still not able to identify the safety threshold. In this circumstances enforcement of law against over consumption alcohol can create difficulties. It can mislead the prosecutors and enforcement officers about the safe level of consumption and misuse (Seiler, 2016). Furthermore, the government should implement the mandatory reporting process which can encourage the women to seek help in case they have drinking problem. In addition, the government should create awareness about the consequences of alcohol during pregnancy and enforcement of law against the misuse of alcohol in pregnant women. The awareness can reduce the rate of incident but the enforcement of law can force the people to obey the law for their future betterment.
At last it can be concluded that using of alcohol and drugs in pregnancy can be harmful for the baby and their mother. It can cause cognitive and behavioural difficulties in children and also increase the risk of child abuse in later life. The mother can also develop mental illness and other diseases due to their addiction. The government should take strict action against the addiction in pregnancy and try to make some positive changes in addicted women life by altering their life and circumstances. The implementation of punishment and penalty cannot improve the child condition but changing lifestyle as a punishment can initiate positive changes in their life and society.