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Moms on drugs place children's health at risk

Using illegal drugs during a pregnancy can have a harmful effect on the child, statistics show.

During the last month, Rock Hill Police have been called to investigate at least two incidents of mothers testing positive for drugs. One of the women was pregnant while the other had just delivered her baby early this month.

In the first case, a 25-year-old York woman arrived at Piedmont Medical Center with problems related to her pregnancy, according to reports. She accepted some medicine, but left when she learned she was being screened for drugs.

The woman tested positive for cocaine, the report states. She left with two men, the IV still in her arm.

In the second incident, the Department of Social Services referred a case to Rock Hill Police on Jan. 11, according to reports. A 28-year-old woman, also of York, gave birth to a girl on Jan. 4 at Piedmont Medical Center.

The next day, hospital officials discovered that both mother and child had tested positive for marijuana, the report states.

Brenda Dawkins has been the treatment coordinator for Keystone Substance Abuse Services in Rock Hill for 20 years. The nonprofit organization helps people with drug and alcohol abuse problems.

When a baby is born and tests positive for a drug, it is considered "born in distress," she said.

"The biggest part of my time is spent trying to get the women to come in for help," she said. A baby who tests positive for cocaine is more likely to sleep a lot because it could be coming down from a high, she said.

According to the March of Dimes website, nearly 4 percent of mothers-to-be use illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, Ecstasy, heroin and other amphetamines. A woman could miscarry or go into premature labor. The baby could "grow poorly," and there is an increased risk of lasting disabilities, including mental retardation and cerebral palsy, later in life.

It also can cause the placenta to separate from the baby, severing the connection of mother to child while the baby is in utero, statistics say.

Babies exposed to marijuana usage have poor sleep patterns and can have problems later that affect their ability to pay attention.

Other programs associated with drug use while pregnant include slow fetal growth, excessive crying and trembling and poor growth.

Dawkins encouraged women who have drug problems and who are pregnant to come for treatment, emphasizing that they are not going to be punished.

No arrests in either case have been made. Potential charges include unlawful conduct toward a child. Both cases are under investigation.