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Substance Use and Pregnancy

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Substance use and pregnancy

If you are pregnant and you use drugs, tobacco, alcohol or caffeine, so does your baby. What you eat, drink or use passes on to your child through the placenta. While pregnant, it is best to eat well, stay healthy and avoid ingesting anything that might be harmful to your or the baby's health.

Always ask your health care provider if it’s safe to use any drug, medication, over-the-counter medicine, vitamin or home remedy. Your doctor may change your prescriptions while you are pregnant.

Common Substances

  • Alcohol

    There is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant. There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink. All types of alcohol are equally harmful, including all wines and beer. Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. These disabilities are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).

    If you are drinking alcohol during pregnancy, it is never too late to stop. If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant and cannot stop drinking, get help. Contact your healthcare provider, local Alcoholics Anonymous, or a local alcohol treatment center.

  • Tobacco

    Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of health problems for developing babies, including preterm birth, low birth weight, and birth defects of the mouth and lip. Smoking during and after pregnancy also increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Additionally, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products containing nicotine (the addictive drug found in tobacco) are not safe to use during pregnancy.

    Quitting tobacco can be hard, but it is possible. Quitting smoking is one of the most important ways you can protect your health and the health of your baby. Quitting early or before pregnancy is best, but it’s never too late to quit smoking. Your doctor can play an important role in helping you quit, including giving advice and support with quitting and connecting you with other resources. You can also call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free support. Quitline coaches can answer questions, help you develop a quit plan, and provide support.

  • Marijuana

    Some research shows that marijuana use during pregnancy is linked to health concerns, including high use of other substances that may impact pregnancy and infant health such as tobacco, and developmental problems in adolescents. Further research is needed to better understand how marijuana may affect pregnant women and developing babies. Consistent with guidance from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the CDC, IDOH advises against using marijuana use during pregnancy.

  • Cocaine

    Cocaine use during pregnancy is associated with maternal migraines, seizures, premature membrane rupture, and separation of the placental lining from the uterus prior to delivery. Pregnancy is accompanied by normal cardiovascular changes, and cocaine use exacerbates these—sometimes leading to serious problems with high blood pressure (hypertensive crises), spontaneous miscarriage, preterm labor, and difficult delivery. Talk to your health care provider, who can help you get treatment to quit or visit a health center for substance abuse services.

    Find a Health Center for Substance Abuse Service

  • Opioids

    Opioid use during pregnancy can affect the pregnant individual and their baby. People may use opioids as prescribed, may misuse prescription opioids, may use illicit opioids such as heroin, or may use opioids (opioid agonists and/or antagonists) as part of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. Regardless of the reason, people who use opioids during pregnancy should be aware of the possible risks during pregnancy, as well as potential treatment options for opioid use disorder.

    Opioid exposure during pregnancy has been linked to some poor health effects for both the mother and their baby. For pregnant individuals, OUD has been linked to maternal death. For babies, maternal OUD or long-term opioid use has been linked to poor fetal growth, preterm birth, stillbirth, and specific birth defects, and can cause neonatal abstinence syndrome.

    If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the first thing you should do is talk to a healthcare provider. Creating a treatment plan for OUD or conditions treated with long-term opioid use, as well as other co-occurring health conditions, before pregnancy can help increase the chances of a healthy pregnancy.

    Find a Health Center for Substance Abuse Service

  • Amphetamines

    Whether someone is taking amphetamine or “speed” as prescribed and therapeutically, or they’re recreationally misusing it, taking amphetamines while pregnant can be dangerous. There are limited well-controlled research efforts on monitoring the effects of amphetamine during pregnancy. However, amphetamine is a category C drug according to the FDA, as it confirms there are risks associated with taking speed while pregnant.

    Amphetamine effects on the fetus are often related to the effects of the drug on the mother. For example, amphetamines can cause someone to lose their appetite. This may mean the fetus isn’t getting the required nutrition, and the mother may lose weight rather than gain it. This is a complication of pregnancy that can have serious effects on the fetus. Over time, taking amphetamine can cause a reduction in cognitive ability and cardiovascular complications in the mother, such as stroke.

    Always ask your health care provider if it’s safe to use any drug, medication, over-the-counter medicine, vitamin or home remedy.

  • Inhalants

    Inhalants contain many toxic substances which are harmful to both you and your baby. It is believed that nearly all inhalants cross the placenta and enter the baby’s bloodstream. For this reason, it is important you stop using inhalants during pregnancy. Research into this area is limited but some of the known effects on the baby are:

    • premature labor and birth
    • poor growth during pregnancy
    • low birth weight
    • poor growth in childhood
    • reduced oxygen, which can affect brain development
  • Prescription Drugs

    Some prescribed medications may be harmful to your unborn or nursing baby. If you are taking any prescribed drugs, talk to your health care provider as soon as possible so that your medications can be changed or adjusted as needed.

  • Over-the-Counter Medicines and Vitamins

    Avoid over-the-counter medicines such as antacids, laxatives, sleeping pills, cold medications and pain relievers. While some are safe for pregnant women, many are not. If you feel you need any of these medications, first check with your health care provider. This applies to large doses of over-the-counter vitamin preparations as well, for taking large doses of extra vitamins can be harmful to you and your baby.