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Drugs & Health Blog

Using Drugs When Pregnant Harms the Baby

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.
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’s 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.

Update: Read the latest on smoking and vaping while pregnant, and using marijuana and opioids while pregnant.

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
Trust me when you see your baby for the first time you will have wished you never done drugs or smoked a cig, babies are innocent and they depend on momma to take good care of them. You will stop for your baby, stop being selfish.
I wish my sister thought the same as you! Her baby is in nicu because she smoked so much took 20 vicodins at a time overdosed and drank vodka the entire time cps got involved and they have done nothing at all my sister is out the hospital but not her baby due to him having bad withdrawls and shes still smoking and asking for pills not every female that becomes a mother changes just look at my sister!!
I'm so sorry to hear that. I hope the baby gonna be okay. :(
Is your child OK and did you ask your Dr. for help gradually coming off dugs? I believe that stopping cold turkey can harm the baby. Get medical supervision a stay safe.
Get yourself into a drug treatment facility and stay there untill your baby is born then hopefully you can stay clean if put the baby up for adoption to give it a better life
Ummm can you help me? I justill have a quick question..I'm 15 years old and I'm adopted, my birth mum took drugs when I was in the womb and I had heroine and something else in my system how does that effect me?

First of all, it must have been difficult to learn this about your birth situation, but you are to be congratulated for trying to get information that can keep you healthy. Most babies do ok once the drugs leave their systems. There are now medications that can help babies suffer less when they are going through withdrawal. Scientists do not know how this might affect you in the long term but it is important to be very careful about not taking any unhealthy drugs. For example, would this situation make you more likely to get addicted to drugs? We just don’t know the answer to that question. Many people who are addicted to drugs like heroin are also addicted to alcohol. Babies exposed to large amounts of alcohol in the womb can struggle with learning and other issues. The important thing is to discuss this with your pediatrician the next time you visit. You can work together with him/her to keep you as healthy as possible. And of course, let your adopted family know about your concerns. They can reassure you that you are probably a pretty normal, healthy teen. But be sure to let your doctor and your family know if you have concerns about specific health issues. Don’t leave out any information. We wish you well.

Get help dont hurt your baby its not fair and can you live w the consequences
Why Do You Keep On Doing The Drug While You Are Pregnant?
because you are addicted
It's an addiction. She's here asking for help. That's the first step. I know you and others may see it as selfish, but shes asking for HELP. But you have no right to judge. If she didn't care about her unborn child, she would continue doing drugs without asking for HELP. But here she is (and I'll say it one more time) ASKING FOR HELP. Get over yourself. Stop being so heartless and cruel.
I have a question my bf does meth and if we have sex and he doesnt pull out does the drug go to the baby or do i personally have to do it?

There has not been enough research to answer your question directly, although it would be most dangerous for the baby if you were to use drugs while pregnant. However, having unprotected sex puts you and the baby at risk for a lot of health issues...including sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS and more. People who use meth are at an increased risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases because meth can lead to poor judgment and risky behaviors, such as having unprotected sex and sharing needles to inject drugs.

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
If u have never been addicted then please do not give us ur uneducated opinion...
When the baby. Is born will the drugs still be in there system even if they stopped

The effects will vary depending on the drugs used, but you can read more about substance use during pregnancy here: If you have any questions about a particular situation, please talk to a doctor.

Can the store bought drug Nauzene kill an infant please respond I'm the brother she is growing up red and clear liquids

Get her medical care immediately. Any infant can react badly to any drug.

Because they love their boyfriend or are on drugs their self!!!!
My birth mom smokeddid heroin and drank when she was pregnant with me. I later in life had drug problems smoking, and have ADHD, bipolar, depression,and struggle in school I'm now 36 and it's been so hard so please don't do it I know from expeeience
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.

When I was I took rock and didn't know I was pregnant until I went to labour am scared now coz my son was growing fine until recently at school teachers complain about him he is naughty beating other kids what must I do to help him I don't like to see him like this it hurts please help
Hi Zandil, as a federal scientific research agency, we are unable to provide medical advice for your son specifically, but please talk to his doctor or a school counselor if you are concerned. They would be better able to figure out how to help him.
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
True me as well I have 3 sons,I didn't smoke for the first for the second I was bt I stopped bt my 3rd I jst dnt no y I cudnt,and I lost him 10 months now he was 3days old n died at home I dnt no if it was the drugs bt sadly I think it was plz dnt do what I did u will regret it 4ever
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