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Drugs & Health Blog

Using Drugs When Pregnant Harms the Baby

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Sara Bellum

Did you know that using alcohol, cigarettes, and illegal drugs during pregnancy can harm the mother and her baby? Everything a pregnant woman eats, drinks, or takes affects the baby. Using drugs can hurt the baby’s growth or even cause the baby to get sick.

About 1 in 6 pregnant teen girls (ages 15 to 17) used illegal drugs between 2008 and 2009. Below are just a few of the problems a baby can face if the mother drinks alcohol or uses drugs while she is pregnant.

Cigarettes: Pregnant women who smoke expose their babies to nicotine and the dangerous chemicals in cigarettes. If the mother smokes, her baby may:

  • Be born early (a preemie)
  • Develop an addiction to nicotine
  • Have breathing and behavioral problems
  • Die before it is born or in the first year of life

Secondhand smoke can also be harmful to a baby. The baby is more likely to develop problems breathing, ear infections, and cavities.

Alcohol: Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause babies to be born with illnesses. These children may:

  • Have problems seeing and hearing
  • Be born too small
  • Struggle with eating and sleeping
  • Have problems in school with learning and paying attention

Illegal drugs: Pregnant women who use illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine, Ecstasy, meth, or heroin can cause lifelong harm to their babies. Drug use can cause babies to:

  • Be born early
  • Grow slowly
  • Have withdrawal symptoms, including fever, vomiting, poor sleep, and shaking
  • Have heart problems or a stroke
  • Suffer lifelong disabilities

If you have been using drugs and think you might be pregnant, stop using the drug and talk to a doctor as soon as possible. (Exception: If you use heroin and you are pregnant, you will need to see a doctor to help you gradually get off the drug—if you stop too suddenly, it can harm the baby.) There are programs that can help teen moms stop using drugs and get healthy for their babies.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


Why does any mother want to try drugs if you know that it would harm their baby and themselves. If you want to get killed by drug addiction, fine. But don't bring your kids into this.
people do drugs because of stress amd you are right why bring your children or even unborn children into what u have to go through.dont kill your children before they even become brought into this world
iam really stressin and need some council to stop doin drugs why iam pregnant iam addicted and cant stop takin it
Why Do You Keep On Doing The Drug While You Are Pregnant?
because you are addicted
Im only 16 so i don't know to much about it but what i do know is me and all 15 of my siblings were born with drugs in our system. When i was younger i was on all kinds of meds and my parents just dopped me up more. Then when i went into foster care then took me off all the meds. My little siblings had it too, but the worse is my 2 year old brother he had every stage of drugs in his system the called him "a crack baby" my point is my mom lost all her children and is still on drugs. Drugs is a powerful thing, yes i hate what my mom did to all of us. But that not really my mom thats a women trapped so far down into drugs that she doesnt even realise that shes doing why she is pregnant and she seems no harm.
Urr right hunn
I was too, my whole family were born with drugs in our systems, we were all adopted because of our birthmothers being on drugs and when i was little i was known as a "crack baby". My birthmother lost all of her kids and is still on drugs as well. I have always hated what my "birthmother" did to me and all of my other halfsiblings, its nice to know im not the only one who's been through this.
I think when a woman is pregnety they should not do drugs or drink beer because they can kill the baby and if they do drugs the baby can be sick.
Unless you have been addicted to drugs yourself you have no idea, and can't say a thing. And unless u get pregnant while addicted to drugs you have no idea what it is like. And until you have experienced it yourself you have no idea how hard it can be. My mom was an alcoholic and I firmly believe that she did the best with what she had.
may be because the baby is giving her problems
firstly this blog is perfect and thanks for useful article.I call the pregnant women from here.please when you are pregnant dont use alchol cigarettes and drug. please stop using harm your dont have right this.
Well, all of those are really bad even if we are not pregnant. So, don't hurt our baby. Thanks for sharing. :)
My ex girlfriend used drugs when she was pregnant my daughter is now two years old and she's over active and has trouble speaking can be from the drugs her mother took

Hi Nelson, we couldn't say whether drug use is a factor in your particular situation. If you have any concerns, please talk with your daughter's doctor.

Wow what a fantastic article, so impressed your a great writer!
um i dont know about that
I'm Pregant and this helps so much
that is a horrible thing to do
why would someone do that its horrible
Maybe the mother did have a addiction problem then went into severe depression that is not curable by words or critics. Being pregnant then being abandoned by the father then losing your mother to suicide all in a month can make people not think straight so until u have been in the shoe don't judge. Watch what u say because if u have kids u could be eating those words later in life
i mean dont do drug and u got a kid because when thay get older ur not gonna want them to smoke hopefuly
thats so helpful. thank you so much
Why would someone want to do that why they have a kid and even if your not pregnet or not you still shouldn't do it that is. That is very nasty.
Um yeah I'm pretty sure that no women who is useing drugs while they are pregnant want to use the drugs. It is a powerful disease and no one with it wants to. Maybe at first but once you get tierd you wanna quit, but by this time your addicted and don't know how. The best anyone can do is take the first step and ask for help because it is to hard to deal with by yourself. Try meetings, or getting a sponsor. It may seem impossible, but anyone can do it. You have to want to quit, cause if you don't u might as well not waste no ones time or your own. But if you really want to you can so it. Once you do you will feel so much better, the hardest part is dealing with all those feelings that u ignored all those years by useing drugs. But u must.
Firstly i disagree ive been on drugs for years and its a mind thing,ive just found out im pregnant and have stopped using, people need to stop feeling sorry coz u have the power to control ur feelings an mind, stop pitying
If you want to have a baby and you like drugs then do if after the baby is born because if you don't then the baby will probably want to do the things that you have done a lot while you are pregnant with the baby cause the baby might want to do the drugs that you were on when you had the baby but it doesn't matter if you stop doing the he/she could still be addicted to the ones that you were and that they are verry bad for the baby.
y do u people do stuff like this it is bad for ur baby
How could someone do that to a Hilda not even born yet
Any time of Addiction is difficult to correct,it is the duty of the persons near to addict the family members,close friends to show care,love and affectionate for the addict, raising his/her self-esteem. Alcohol Awareness Novato
I have to give the author of this article credit. Most often these articles only center upon illicit drugs and fail to include tobacco and alcohol. Many people do not know that smoking poses just as great if not greater harm than cocaine or meth use while pregnant. Alcohol can in fact be deadly (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) Also great advice about seeking medical advice concerning heroin use while pregnant, but should have included all opiate pain killers and benzodiazepines. Prenatal care has the greatest influence leading to positive pregnancies.
There are a few posts on here that are just wrong, First yes doing drugs is Bad,and unhealthy to both the mother and the fetus. But what a lot of people DO NOT understand is that drug/alcohol abuse is a disease, when a person is using it is very hard to stop and especially teen moms who might be scared on top of it all to turn for help. These addicts have underlying mental health issues, and those issues need to get treated as well, otherwise the addict will go right back to using. It is proven that there is brain issues that have shown up on brain scans of an addict. So when people say oh when your pregnant you should just stop, an addict cannot just stop no matter how much they want to especially addicts addicted to heroin. Heroin is a physically addicting substance and have harmful effects to baby and mother when just stopping. So before badmouthing addicted teen/adult moms read up on the facts. This right here, these discouraging comments are exactly what turns addicted pregnant women away from getting the help they need.. to the author great write up..It is very informative and full of good facts.. Also maybe you could write an additional piece that gives these women numbers/ websites so they have it so they can reach out for the help they need. :-). Thank you.
Ya and what about a pregnant woman injecting subutex and smoking city's baby was born at 6 1/2 pounds nothing seems to be wrong would u think there can be problems down the road for them?

K, someone using Subutex is likely doing so under a doctor's supervision.  Doctors carefully consider the risk and benefits of prescribing Subutex for each patient and do what they feel is best for the health of mom and baby.  

wow heading this helps nothing
What do you do if you suspect a teenager is using using drugs or alcohol knowing she's pregnant? Is ther anyone you can call?

Hi some who cares.  If you really suspect a teen is using drugs and alcohol while pregnant, we recommending contacting her parents or her school counselor.  It sounds like she needs help understanding the health risks  of using drugs while pregnant and coping with the stress of pregnancy at such a young age.  You may also want to use SAMHSA's treatment locator to help her find alcohol or drug abuse treatment to help her stop.  Call 1-800-662-HELP or visit

Thanks for your reply. This is my sister, actually. Adopted through foster care and very loved but very rebellious, lives out of state, is living with a registered sex offender (gang raped a 15 yr old..he was 18, she justifies everything). She's 18. He's now 19. Denies drug and alcohol use, but posts on social media say otherwise. Have seen a video she made of herself, appearing to be drug or high. Have discussed this with our parents. She denies everything. We are told the state still has no laws on this until baby is born? Does anyone know? IL is the current state. I'm very worried about her and the baby. Almost in 2nd trimester and only 1 visit to Dr. No prenatals, up on fb and other social media at all not sleeping well, stressed, in an unhealthy relationship, no work, etc. She also has special needs, but they're neurological and harder to realize until you've experienced all that she is about. Tough situation.

This sounds really complicated, someone who cares.  It's wonderful that you're able to be in your sister's life and that you care so much.  It sounds like she needs your support and guidance.  Have you thought about talking to a lawyer that specializes in family law in her state?  You may also want to reach out to a social worker in her state and ask what services IL can offer and what types of interventions are available.  Good luck.

Hi, please can you help me with some answers? I know some one that used to use meths and said she stoped using it when she fell pregnant, is it possible to stop immediately? And if so can the drug still be in the mommies system for a while after the use. The baby is showing signs of irritability, not feeding well, not sleeping well at all and isnt calm with mommy but calms down a bit better with daddy. The baby has not got a normal behaviour. The parents are finding it difficult to cope with a baby thats seldom calm. I am concerned about baby and parents.

We can't answer these questions, unfortunately.  Only a doctor will be able to evalutate the baby and determine if the mother's previous drug use affected the baby.  If you're concerned about the welfare of the parents and baby, you should contact you local social service agency or a social worker.  Also, try to offer as much support as you can.  For example, offer to watch the baby while mom and dad take a nap or make them dinner to help lessen their stress.  

Thank you for your reply.
Having a baby is a very important thing and it can affect your life and change your life. Your child might be a good thing in this world and the last thing it needs is to be harmed when it is unborn. Do you want your child to die? Or have life long disabilities? If not, then do not treat your baby like it's just something that is supposed to happen, think of your child as life that you actually want to pursue. Your child should not be having withdrawals when it is first born. Just please think, think that your child can bring you the best and you are only letting your child down by being the cause of it's disabilities. Your child could be the start of new life. Don't mess up the baby's life or yours. STOP and think before you pursue anything further. Love your child, don't kill it.
I know a woman that did drugs and drank while she was pregnate. No one knew at the time, she hid it from everyone. She had her baby and the little baby girl was not healthy at all. The baby was mentally disabled, she didn't grow properly, almost blind, and deaf. Around the age of 4 the little girl died from complications. The mother never admitted to doing the drugs; however, she continued to drink and do drugs after. It was obvious. Later the woman was pregnate again, and her child, a son, was born to the same disabilities as the little girl. The woman who had everyone, except for me, fooled into thinking it was a genetic disorder, stopped researching after she saw "genetic disorder." I kept reading and saw what was really going on. The woman had been hiding her drug and alcohol use for the 2nd time and never told Doctors of her use. 2 months ago the woman crashes into a bridge and is still today in a coma. However, 4 days ago her little boy died at the age of 3 1/2. The woman doesn't even know her baby passed away. How sad it is! Please take care of yourself if you're pregnate! This is the evils of doing drugs and drinking while pregnate. This woman was a good friend of mine, but I had to "wash my hand of her" a few years back. Even though I always will love her, I don't like her. Drugs will mess you up, you will lose your friends, family, and could even lose the most precious gift ever, your child. Drugs are not worth it. Having a child is the best feeling in the world. Losing a child is hell! Stop and think before you use.
wow dats so sad iam pregnant and wanna stop doin drugs but iam addicted and cant stop its to hard i cant just stop like dat i really need some help to stop doin it i want a healthy pregnancy i really need some council

Hi Wanda, it's great that you want to get help for your addiction for the health of you and your baby. You can call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit to find a drug treatment program in your area.

I really do not understand y people who are pregnant take drugs in the first place.
its really dangerous for baby, peoples should not do like this.
Let's say someone is doing drugs but didnt know she was pregnant , then found out and quit but she was only a couple weeks pregnant will it still pop up on the baby or do any harm to the baby?


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