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March 2024

Use of Drugs and Alcohol During Pregnancy

Using drugs, alcohol, and tobacco can be harmful at any time during your life. But they pose a double danger if you’re pregnant, jeopardizing your health and that of the unborn baby.

Bad timing

Drugs and alcohol are dangerous at any stage of pregnancy. They’re likely to affect the fetus differently depending on what’s used, when, how much, and how often.

Many parts of a fetus’ body begin to form in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Substance use at this point can lead to birth defects and miscarriage. Later in pregnancy, illegal drug use can interfere with the fetus’ growth, cause premature delivery, and even result in fetal death.

Understanding the health risks of taking any kind of drug during pregnancy may help you avoid using them. You can also get help from a healthcare professional if you have trouble stopping on your own.


You shouldn’t drink any amount of alcohol during any stage of your pregnancy, according to the CDC.

Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDS). Children with FASDS may develop:

  • Learning and intellectual disabilities

  • Facial abnormalities

  • Vision and hearing problems

  • Problems with their heart, kidneys, or bones


Smoking before or while pregnant raises your risk of having a preterm birth or a low-birth-weight baby. It also increases your likelihood of having a pregnancy outside the womb, which can cause your fallopian tube to rupture. Even if you smoke after the baby is born, this increases the baby’s risk for developing asthma and sudden infant death syndrome.


Even though it is legal in some states, marijuana should not be used in any form during pregnancy. People who use marijuana while pregnant have an increased risk of delivering a stillborn or low-birth-weight baby. Using marijuana during pregnancy is also associated with learning and behavioral challenges in children.


Using cocaine during pregnancy increases the risk for placental abruption, which is when the placenta separates from the uterus. In addition, cocaine use can sometimes lead to spontaneous miscarriage and preterm labor. Babies who have been exposed to cocaine before they’re born also face an increased risk for congenital, urinary, and brain defects.


When taken under a healthcare professional’s supervision, prescription opioids can be safe for you and your child. However, misusing opioids during pregnancy can increase the risk for fetal growth problems, preterm birth, stillbirth, and neonatal abstinence syndrome––when the baby goes through withdrawal upon birth.


Some prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements aren’t safe to take during pregnancy. Check with your healthcare provider before taking any of these substances when you’re pregnant.         

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has more information about what’s safe during pregnancy.



Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2024
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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