One of the great tragedies of our times is the terrible legacy of addiction unwittingly created by medicine in its zeal to take away the pain of childbirth.
Doctors clearly understand that drugs taken by mothers during pregnancy could damage their children that’s why medicine tests drugs for their teratogenic (birth defect causing) capability. They now know that drinking or smoking during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol syndrome or a small gestational size. They are all too aware that babies born to mothers on heroin or crack are born junkies and must be weaned off their habit, so it is nothing less than staggering that they refuse to make the small logical leap required to understand that a pregnant woman taking potentially addictive drugs like benzodiazepines and other psychotropic drugs will be creating addiction in the baby she is carrying.
What doctors really don’t wish to understand, in the face of overwhelming evidence, is that addictive drugs crossing the placenta of any variety, be they tranks or booze or crack, create an addict for life. The biology of this is well understood. When a baby is exposed to benzodiazepines or antidepressants in the womb, his neurotransmitters don’t develop properly. Tranquillisers boost GABA-aminobutyric acid, which then slows down the development of certain neurotransmitters. Certain brain synapses don’t work as they should and serotonin levels are low. Ultimately, the levels of the hormones which maintain mood and mental equilibrium are deficient.
This, then, becomes a child with a desperate need to constantly boost his ‘happy hormones’. As children, benzo babies are known to grab for chocolate or Coca-cola with a life and death ferocity and have a taste for alcohol if they can get hold of it anything to lift mood. This is an addiction in the making, an accident waiting to happen once the child grows to adulthood and can readily obtain legal mood boosters like drugs or alcohol.
But the problem isn’t simply among benzo babies. Active birth specialist Dr Michel Odent, director of the Primal Health Research Centre, has amassed studies showing that babies exposed to opiates during their mother’s labours are more likely to become chemically dependent adults. In his view and the view of Margaret Bell (see Second Opinion, p 12), exposure in the womb however brief imprints itself on the fetal brain as a situation to which the child, and later the adult, constantly strives to return.
This damage doesn’t stop in a single generation. Evidence shows that if a mother’s DNA is damaged as a fetus, she will pass on these problems to her own children, whether or not she takes drugs during her own pregnancies.
Happily, alternative medicine has much to offer these children. The skinbrushing pioneered by the Centre for Developmental Learning Difficulties reputedly completes some of the incomplete mental circuitry and helps the neurotransmitters function better. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can increase
circulation to the brain.
Diet can help with hyperactivity and mood, as can cranial osteopathy, homoeopathy, acupuncture or spiritual healing.
However, it is a more difficult task to erase the dependency that we have imprinted into that child and into his descendants for generations to come.
In the US, more than a third of all pregnant women are being given psychoactive drugs, including tranquillers, during pregnancy, so hundreds of thousands of children are born with the potential for addiction. In the UK, it’s been estimated that 50,000 benzo babies are born every year (see p 12).
It’s interesting to consider, as Margaret Bell points out, that these new health problems in children are only seen in the West, a place with enough money to throw drugs at women to remove the slightest discomfort of pregnancy a place where women are being schooled to think that having a baby needn’t cause a ripple in your life.
The person who should be blamed for the drug crimes and addiction of our modern times is not the importer or drug dealer or pusher, but somebody more fundamental in the child’s life his mother’s obstetrician.