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Drugs & Health Blog

Real Teens Ask: Will Drugs Hurt an Unborn Baby?

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Sara Bellum

Lots of teens have questions about drugs. Each year, NIDA scientists spend a whole day chatting online with high school students and answering their questions.

At the last Drug Facts Chat Day, “hbishop” asked:

Can a baby die from drugs that a pregnant mom is using?

To answer your question, it's possible. As one NIDA scientist put it, “We know that drugs of abuse can cross the placenta and reach the fetus. So, drugs used by the mother definitely can affect the baby’s health and can even cause long-term harm many years later. That is why doctors recommend that pregnant mothers not smoke or use alcohol or other illicit drugs.”

Anything a pregnant mother puts in her body the baby also takes in. Exposure to different drugs can harm the baby in many different ways. Like—

Smoking during pregnancy can cause slowed fetal growth, decreased birth weights, and even behavioral problems.

Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Children with FAS may be born small; have problems eating, sleeping, seeing, and hearing; and have trouble learning and getting along with others. NO amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.

Using cocaine and marijuana during pregnancy can lead to children having attention, language, and learning problems, as well as behavioral issues. Mothers who use alcohol, tobacco, or any illicit drug are setting their children up for potential lifelong problems or even death. The best thing a pregnant mom can do is talk to her doctor about which foods to eat and vitamins to take to make sure her child gets a healthy start.

Update: For the latest on pregnancy and drug use, read these blog posts.


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.


My girlfriend is pregnant and she has read some awesome articles explaining the do's and don'ts or pregnancy but no one will answer definitively what drugs she is allowed. For example can she take paracetamol or ibuprofen? What can she take for a runny nose? Are there any drugs she can take?

@KC You’re right to say your girlfriend should avoid taking medications while pregnant, unless she gets a doctor’s approval. Certain drugs taken by the mother can harm an unborn baby. The best thing would be for her to talk to a doctor to find out what’s safe to help her symptoms and what’s safe for the baby.

You can Take good drugs prescribed by your doctor!!! NOT BAD ONES!!!!!

This is insane of course drugs will hurt an unborn baby. Thank you

This is a great info thanks

It is insane of course drugs will hurt an unborn baby. Thank you !


This is a intresting post
Thanks for sharing!


There are millions of women who have done drugs when pregnant unknowingly, the real damage is only when you repeatedly use drugs while pregnant.

Thanks for this really useful info. I came across this blog when doing some research. I agree with you that no amount of alcohol is safe especially in the first few months although some argue that a moderate amount is safe. As for other forms of drugs these are definitely dangerous for a pregnant woman to take. This blog has really helped my research for my website. It will help my readers understand the dangers of drugs while pregnant. Thanks so much!

I believe alcohol ingested by the mother while carrying her unborn baby does negatively affect her baby.
What videos do you recommend?

I was wondering if drug travel to the baby through the umbilical cord from the mom and if it would ruin the stem cells that were in there so i can write my Paper up

@unborn baby We know that drugs of abuse cross the placenta and affect the developing fetus. If you’re talking about embryonic stem cells, that would be something entirely different, an earlier stage in reproductive development than a fetus.

Thank you please keep this kind of articles coming to share with our young people.

This is a very interesting post. Thanks for sharing such great information.

Thank you for sharing this information. More people should inform themselves with this information.

this is a wonderful post. it answered all my questions. THANKS!!!! :)

i cant belive some moms do drug while they are pregnant

Anyone who is wondering just how do you get pregnant should make sure they understand that smoking and drinking hurt the baby, not just hard drugs.

Of course drugs will hurt and unborn baby! Everything we consume affects unborn babies, and can alter their lives irreversibly. [commercial link removed, per guidelines]

anyone who actually needs to know if drugs will hurt an unborn baby needs some help. of course they will!! they're drugs. but the article was informative.

this is bad information

This is a very useful info thanks.
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obviously they shudnt be doing any of that.even if there not prego

I am not a doctor but I am quite sure that any drugs during the pregnancy period will affect the baby's health.
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I am going through classes about substance abuse and yes it will hurt the baby. It will cause life long abnormalities to the baby.

doing a report on how druga can effect on a unborn child and this really helps me with my report!(: For my child devlopment class lol Well thanks 4 the help

drugs can hurt a new born baby and it can hurt the woman to.


Kc(girl), Is your friend smoking cigarettes?  If so, smoking cigarettes while pregnant may cause her baby to:

  • 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

Read Using Drugs When Pregnant Harms the Baby for more information about how using tobacco, alcohol, and drugs can harm unborn babies.

Am 5 moths pregnant and am addicted to pethidine. Can it affect my baby. Even if I stop now

Rachel, pethidine is a prescription opioid which may affect the baby.  You need to contact your doctor right away to determine the best course of action.  You doctor will be able to tell you if it is safe to stop, or how best to treat your addiction for the rest of your pregnancy.  Good luck.